As you can see, it has been almost 3 weeks since I last posted on UHT. I apologize for that, and for writing few posts overall in the last several months.
In case you didn't know, I am also a regular writer for Faceoff-Factor.com. It has recently become clear to me that it is hard for me to maintain my blog and continue to write for FF, all while pursuing a career in 'real life'. Rather than to let my work here and at FF suffer, I have decided to focus my efforts in one place - at FF.
I wanted to thank all of my readers for stopping by, reading my rants, and offering their own two cents. You guys are what make bloggers relevant in hockey.
Thanks for everything!
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
As you can see, it has been almost 3 weeks since I last posted on UHT. I apologize for that, and for writing few posts overall in the last several months.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Bye Bye Ray Emery.
I defended you last summer when everyone said that you were a crummy goalie. I said that you weren't crap, that you'd be even better when your wrist got better.
Then you just had to come back and suck. You were pouting when you had to park yourself on the bench upon returning from wrist surgery because Gerber was unbelievable last fall. You were late for practice how many times?
You just weren't a good teammate off the ice, and you didn't do anything to make yourself a better teammate on the ice because practicing 'isn't fun'.
So now you find yourself out of Ottawa, and no other NHL team will take a chance on you.
Not even Los Angeles.
The only job you could get is with a Russian team. I hope you can get your act together and grow up. Maybe if you do, and maybe if you work on your game, you can come back to North America in a few years and someone will take a chance on you.
After all, you were in goal when Ottawa went to the SCF a year ago. You can't be total crap.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
When Shero traded for Hossa at the deadline, Pierre McGuire said that he didn't care for the move because it made Pittsburgh "Tampa Bay North" - alluding to Tampa's disastrous situation of having three star players making a big pile of money.
Well, I believe we can now call Tampa "Pittsburgh South" considering how they have signed all kinds of former Penguins in the last few weeks.
There's the new scout, Greg Malone, who may have helped to lure his son Ryan to Tampa...Gary Roberts, Adam Hall, and now Mark Recchi also signed this off-season. These four players played in Pittsburgh at some point last season, and Michel Ouellet was a Penguin the season before.
If Tampa wanted a new start this season, it looks like they got it. I just hope they aren't hoping that these former Penguins will hand them another Stanley Cup, because it won't happen. Ryan Malone has the potential of making the biggest impact on the team, but nothing is for certain.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
If you can't beat them, join them.
That's what Marian Hossa must be thinking, considering he just signed a one-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings for $7.4M.
Hossa was the biggest name on the market. Pittsburgh wanted to re-sign him to a multi-year deal for a reported $7M/yr, Edmonton wanted to throw $9M/yr at his feet, and the Habs and Rangers were supposedly in the mix too. The Red Wings were mentioned a few times, but they didn't make much noise. Until now.
This signing shocked me, not because it's the Red Wings, but because of the terms of the deal. Considering this deal is for little more than what Shero was offering, I can only assume that Hossa wasn't really interested in being a long-term Penguin.
Maybe he thought that, should he sign with the Pens, the team would become strapped for cash and that there would be little chance of winning the Cup in coming years.
Maybe he just looked at the Detroit Red Wings and sees a very good chance of winning a Cup with them next season (and they have now just become my number 1 pick for winning it all next year).
Maybe we'll never know what happened.
What I do know is this: Ray Shero could not have done any more. Some fans are already calling for Shero's head over this, but what some people don't get is that Shero cannot afford to overpay any player on the team. With Crosby and soon-to-be Malkin locked in for about $8.7M/year each, and MAF needing a contract in the next month, there IS NO money to pay someone upwards of $9M/yr for umpteen seasons.
The teams that overspend this time of year will ultimately lose.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
What is going on down in Tampa?
They finished in the basement of the conference last season, so they decided to pull a Philly and turn things around.
New ownership, new coach, number one draft pick, trades galore, signings left, right and centre - many of those players being former Penguins.
They are looking good up front. Really good. But what about the defensive part of the game?
Tampa's defensive corps has been a little, uh, leaky in recent times, yet they want Dan Boyle (number 1 d-man) to waive his no trade clause so that they can ship him out. Wow.
Now TSN and Sportsnet are reporting that Tampa is shopping goalie Mike Green. If Green was out of town, recently signed Olaf Kolzig would be their numero uno.
Umm...don't they know that you have to stop the other team from scoring, too?
Unless they are planning on shipping Boyle and Green to Vancouver for Roberto Luongo...Nah, that wouldn't happen.
It is still early in free agency, so who knows what Feaster and the crew will do in coming weeks. Hopefully they'll address the defensive holes in the team, but even if they don't, it will be interesting to see how this little experiment pans out.
Monday, June 30, 2008
A few days ago, the Tampa Bay Lightning acquired the rights to negotiate with Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts, with a 2009 draft pick going to Pittsburgh.
Then, we learned last night that Malone has signed a deal with the Lightning, a deal that will pay him $31.5M over 7 years. He will receive $7M and $8M in those first two years.
We all knew that Malone was likely searching for his big pay day, and his numbers from the second half of the season helped to launch him into that group of free agents that teams wanted to sign.
I don't want to disrespect Malone or anything, but I honestly don't like this deal.
I think that Tampa is overpaying Malone with this contract. Sure, his cap hit is $4.5M/year, but figures like $7-8M for a 51-point player (only one season, remember?) is a little ridiculous.
How is this going to impact on the rest of this year's free agent class? We saw Briere get an insane contract last year, so I imagine that THAT trend will continue. However, I have to believe that Malone's contract may make things a little worse.
Look at it this way - an impending free agent wants to know what kind of contract to demand from potential suitors. He looks at what other players are making and what other players are being awarded. A guy like Marian Hossa must look at Malone's contract and realize that he should get a bigger pay day because he's a better player. If that's the case, what are the chances that he'll resign with Pittsburgh?
Sure, the salary cap just went up several million dollars, but I believe that more and more players are demanding (undeserved) higher salaries. It's almost like a pissing contest - let's see who can get more money and more years. I believe that there are very few players who should be able to make more than $6M/year, and this pissing contest of sorts is only making it harder for a team to sign an impact player.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Free Agent Frenzy day is just around the corner, and I'm not quite sure what to think. Gary Roberts is leaving to play for another team. Ryan Malone looks to be out of town, on his way to making his fortune. Brooks Orpik is on the fence. Marian Hossa liked Shero's deal, but is looking to see what he can get elsewhere first.
Just what will this Penguins team look like next week?
As a fan, it is a little nerve-wracking to sit by and watch players leave town. After all, these guys were within two wins of the Stanley Cup and I figure that the experience would do this team a world of good in the near future. But can it happen when some of your top players leave?
I am confident that Shero will be able to replace all of the above players should none of them return, but there is always uncertainty. How will the newcomers mesh with the current crew? Can they come together for another magical run for the Cup?
Every team goes through this, especially when the GM has some cap issues. The Pens want to sign top-end players to compete with Crosby and Malkin, but with so many stars on one team, players have to sacrifice a few dollars for a shot at the Stanley Cup. Welcome to the salary cap era...
In the coming week(s) I would expect Shero to target wingers - especially a couple for Crosby. He may also need to address the grit factor. With Roberts and Malone leaving, and Orpik, Ruutu and BGL being UFAs, Shero definitely needs to bring in players who are not afraid to play a physical game.
Free Agent Frenzy Day is always a gamble, but you must gamble if you want to win big.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
The rumours coming out of Pittsburgh lately are that Hossa is going to stay, Malkin's going to sign for less than he's worth, and MAF will sign an extension.
Oh, and there's the rumours about Ryan Malone. In fact, is it just me, or is he getting most of the headlines lately?
The guys over at Faceoff Factor are doing a great job at reporting all the news/rumours and giving all kinds of sources. One day it seems like Malone's rights will be traded, and now it looks like he will weigh his options at noon on July 1st.
I guess the rumour is that Shero ticked off Malone by low-balling him - maybe an offer of $3.5M a year? - and it seems like Malone may be able to sign a contract with another team worth upwards of $5M a year.
Now, everything is rumour at this point, but it seems like Malone wants a big paycheck. I guess you can't really blame him for going for the money if someone is willing to pay. If someone offered you a job that paid double your current salary, you'd consider it too.
But should Malone go for the money? If the GMs get into some kind of bidding war on Malone and drive the price up to $5M or more, should he take it?
There are plenty who would say, "Sure! If that poor schmuck is going to hand it out, grab the money and run!"
I, on the other hand, disagree.
I don't believe that Malone has proven himself worthy of that kind of paycheck. The second half of this past season was great, but before that...?
Malone played with one of the best centres in the world and he elevated his own game at the same time that Malkin stepped up. That line was incredible, but can we say that Malone will have the same success on another team? I really, truly don't know and that's not something you want to doubt if you are prepared to fork over $5M a year.
And besides, does a 50-point player even deserve that kind of big contract?
If Malone does decide to test the UFA waters on July 1st, I'd be willing to bet that the teams offering him that big contract are not Cup contenders. The big offers will come from desperate teams wanting to land a name in FA, and they will be willing to pay/drive up the price.
So, let's say that Malone does sign a big contract with another team. The GM of that team will surely come under fire if Malone doesn't pan out, but he won't be the only one. Once a player signs a contract, the expectations of that player reflect that contract. So, if Malone signs a $5M, long term contract, he will be expected to play and produce like one. If he doesn't, he will be criticized for his lack of production, even if it was the GM who made the offer in the first place. He will be much more likely to fall out of favour with his team and with other teams in the NHL because of not living up to expectations. Who knows, maybe he'd have his contract bought out and find himself without a team.
If I was in Malone's shoes, I would not go for the money. I would want to prove that this past year was not some kind of fluke. I'd take a smaller contract (say, $3.5M for 2 years) to stay with the Pens to try to win a Cup - after all, they are contenders now. Then I'd see what I could get in free agency.
Maybe I'm being unrealistic here, a bit naive in my thinking, and maybe I just believe that money isn't the most important thing in the world.
...and maybe I'm thinking too much of Alexei Yashin and how much of a disappointment he turned out to be for the NYI.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
June 11, 1988 was the day that Trevor Linden was drafted second overall by the Vancouver Canucks.
June 11, 2008 was the day that Trevor Linden officially retired from the NHL.
A lot can happen in 20 years, and we have all come to love Linden for what he has done in that time.
He is one of the most well-liked guys in the league, and the most popular player to suit up for the Canucks.
More importantly, he is one heck of a guy off the ice, doing so much for children's charities. He was recognized for this work, winning the King Clancy Memorial Trophy (1997) and the NHL Foundation Player Award (2008).
The league needs more guys like him.
Linden may not be completely done with hockey, as he is currently talking to the Canucks about remaining in the organization in some capacity.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
I woke up this morning to the wonderful news that Halifax and Moncton have put in a bid to host the 2010 World Junior Hockey Championships.
Hockey Canada has three bids to consider: Halifax-Moncton, Winnipeg-Brandon, Regina-Saskatoon.
Halifax and Moncton are no strangers to hosting major sporting events. Halifax hosted the WJC with Sydney in 2003, the world women's hockey championships in 2004, and then there was a little thing called the WC that just wrapped up in May. Moncton has hosted quite a few events in the past (such as the Memorial Cup in 2006) and is preparing for the world men's curling championships in 2009, and the world junior track and field championships in 2010.
Hockey Canada will make its decision next month, and I'm hoping they show some more love for us Maritimers.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Ken Griffey Jr. hit his 600th home run yesterday against the Florida Marlins. Good for him, he always seems like a nice guy, so he deserves this milestone.
Now, I don't watch baseball - I can't remember the last time I watched a whole game - but I've been watching the highlights on SportsCentre the last few weeks and something really struck me. I've watched Griffey get up to the plate and be walked time and time again. The same thing happened last year when Bonds was chasing the HR record.
What's up with that?
Why are so many pitchers dead-set against taking a chance and perhaps allowing a home run like this?
To all those pitchers who purposefully walked Ken Griffey Jr., I have this to say: you are all cowards and an embarrassment to sports. You should be ashamed of yourselves for such behaviour.
There is no shame in being the one who pitches such a record-setting/milestone pitch, but there is shame in taking the wimpy way out.
Grow a freakin' backbone...
Monday, June 9, 2008
When CBC announced a few days ago that they were not able to renew their licensing agreement for 'The Hockey Theme,' I thought it was lost. I did not expect today's news, that's for sure.
Turns out we will be hearing the famous 'dum-da-dum-da-dum' next season.
But it won't be on CBC.CTV has announced that they have acquired the rights to the theme, which they will play for NHL broadcasts on TSN and RDS. Furthermore, we will hear our second national anthem during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
I figure this CTV deal was the reason why CBC couldn't renew the license - CTV was offering more. In fact, CTV has been really kicking butt in terms of broadcasting sports...CBC will broadcast its last Olympics this summer before handing over the reigns to CTV...CTV has every CFL game plus the Grey Cup...all international hockey games, including the WJC and the WC, are broadcast on TSN...they have all four Grand Slam events, and then there's all 4 golf majors, the NBA finals, Series of Champions Curling, NASCAR, F1, NFL games (and the Super Bowl), EURO 2008...and the list goes on.
Hasek won 2 Stanley Cups, 6 Vézina trophies, and a couple of Hart trophies since entering the NHL in 1990 and is arguably one of the best goaltenders in history. He also won gold at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. It is likely that his decision to retire was sparked when he lost his role as the starting goalie for Detroit in the first round of the playoffs this year.
"I'll be honest, I can't enjoy it as I did enjoy the Stanley Cup in 2002," Hasek said, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Hasek is definitely one weird goalie - he doesn't adopt the butterfly or stand-up styles that most goalies use. I liken his style to a fish flopping around in the crease, and it has served him well.
Saturday, June 7, 2008
Canadians are stunned. Or at least the hockey-loving Canadians are stunned.
The Hockey Night in Canada theme song, considered to be our second national anthem, will not return.
CBC Sports tried to renew the licensing fee, but composer Dolores Claman and her reps refused the deal. Details are not available, but it seems as though CBC offered to continue to pay Claman the richest licensing fee in Canada for use of the song. They previously paid $500 per use, and that was going to go up 15% after 2 years. CBC also offered to buy the song for a 'high six-figure sum', but that offer was rejected.
If CBC was willing to continue to pay Claman the richest licensing in the nation, and if they were going to increase those fees to reflect 'industry standard', then what's the problem? Is it greed on Claman's part? That's what it seems like to me...
So now, CBC has launched (or will soon be launching) a contest to replace the theme song, with the winner receiving $100,000 and all royalties going to minor hockey.
Friday, June 6, 2008
Congrats to the Wings, they deserved it. I couldn't help but smile when I saw Mike Babcock's boyish grin yesterday on OTR. He looked like it was the happiest day of his life, and I'm sure it was one of them.
It was heartbreaking to see the pain on the faces of the Penguins after that game. It was their first trip to the big dance and they truly believed that they could win. They saluted the crowd before leaving the ice, but it should be us saluting them. They showed more heart and courage in the last two weeks than imaginable, and I am damn proud of that.
Some people are now looking back at what happened in the SCF and how the Penguins played, and criticism is being thrown around like free candy. I understand that the media has to talk about what went wrong, and what went right, but why do some 'fans' feel the need to tear this team apart??
It really gets on my nerves to hear fans criticize the Pens for not winning the Stanley Cup this year. They put the blame on the coaches, on Malkin, on Sykora, on Crosby, on Sydor, on [fill in the blank], but they are blind to the great things that came out of this series.
I believe wholeheartedly that this team did the best that it could. We must think about how young this team is - the top three centres are 21 and under. We need to think about how young Marc-Andre Fleury is, and how young other guys are. We need to consider the fact that most of these players have not been in the SCF before, and there is a huge learning curve there. I am willing to bet that this team was nervous and tried to do too much for a good chunk of the series. Nevermind the physical issues - it's the nerves that will get you because it makes it harder to make decisions under pressure.
I am also willing to bet my life that these players and these coaches have learned a great deal from this series. They say that hindsight is 20/20, and I'm sure everyone now knows what they should have done in this situation or that. They did their best at the time, and now they know what they could change. This knowledge does not come from a teacher - it comes from experience.
It is silly..no, stupid..for fans to gripe about how Malkin didn't play well until the last game, or how MAF let in a couple of soft goals, or how MT was outcoached by Babcock. They managed to win a couple of games, didn't they? They were also playing a team that was much more experienced - a team that wasn't as 'old' as everyone thought.
I say give the kids a lot of credit for their season and for making it as far as they did - because no one really expected them to be in the SCF just yet. And no one expected a SCF berth given the poor start to the season, or the injuries.
Last year the Pens were ousted from the playoffs after just 5 games, and look how far they came this year after gaining that little bit of experience.
Imagine how much better they could be next year...
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
The media asked Tiger Woods who he's rooting for in the SCF, the Wings or Pens. He had this to say:
"I don't really care. It's all about the Dodgers. I don't think anyone really watches hockey anymore."
Well, my respect for him just dropped a few notches...
Looks like the Maple Leafs are getting ready to hire a coach. Fletcher said that he offered a coach a job, and it is widely believed that Ron Wilson was that coach.
Imagine if hard-ass Wilson comes to Toronto? Maybe it's just what the team needs...
Other coaching news: John Tortorella was officially fired today. I'm glad they did it now instead of dragging it out until the new owners take over - this gives him a good shot at finding a job sooner rather than later.
Maybe Ottawa? Those guys could use a kick in the arse.
The NHL and TSN have announced a new 6-year deal that will put 70 games on TSN this year, not including the first three playoff rounds.
Those 70 games will feature at least 1 Canadian team, with 17 games going to the Leafs, 15 to the Habs, and 10 for each of the Flames, Sens, Oilers, and Canucks.
The Wednesday night game will be a feature in the schedule, as there will be no other NHL game broadcasted in Canada that evening.
So, now we have at least 3 NHL games a week: the Wednesday night TSN game, and the double header on CBC on Saturdays. That doesn't take other games played on TSN, or the ones on Sportsnet, or CBC...I say bring it on! The more hockey, the better.
I'm just wondering how many Pens games we'll get to see.
If you want to find a superstitious athlete, just look for a hockey player. They have been known to take certain routes to the arena (even if it’s out of their way), put their equipment on in a specific order, eat at the same restaurant before every game, or not step on the blue line when heading for the net (à la Patrick Roy). There is no sound reason for these behaviours, but it seems to make them believe that they will play better. Unfortunately, some fans have adopted superstitions of their own, believing that they can help their teams.
Without reason, I have become superstitious and it has become more serious in the last few months. Okay, in reality I only have one superstition, and it involves my black Crosby jersey. I noticed that every now and again when I wear my jersey, the Penguins lose (which is to be expected since the team will not win every game). However, for some strange reason, the irrational part of my brain began to believe that the Pens lost when I wore the jersey. The rational part – which I hope is the larger section of my brain – would often point out the stupidity of my beliefs and I would throw on my jersey in hopes of proving myself wrong.
This back and forth inner dialogue seems, well, stupid, but it didn’t stop me from taking off my jersey for games 3 and 4 since the Penguins were unable to score a goal in the Stanley Cup Finals when I wore my sweater for the first two games.
Then, as game 5 drew near, the debate started again and I wondered if my wearing of the jersey would somehow cause a cosmic force to swing the game in the Red Wings’ favour. It was a somewhat half-hearted debate, for I knew that in all probability, the Wings would win the game, but Miss Rational took over and ended the discussion in my head once and for all.
See, I came to realize last night that by wearing the jersey, I am not influencing the outcome of the game any more than beards help a player to become the playoff scoring leader.
No, wearing the sweater is all about showing support for my team. It’s about showing the world that I am a fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
With my oversized jersey (who would’ve thought that a medium would look more like a dress?) on my back, I settled in front of my television to watch the game at 9 PM.
I told myself that the Penguins were going to lose the game and therefore the Cup. It’s not that I believed that there was absolutely no hope of the Pens winning – I wholeheartedly believed that they could extend the series. It’s just that I recognized the fact that the Red Wings are a very good team and the Pens would seemingly have to climb Mount Everest to win game 5.
But more importantly, I didn’t want to hype myself up too much and risk the possibility of feeling disappointed if the Pens lost. I was so proud of this team for coming this far, and I didn’t want to feel the bitter taste of disappointment…at all. So here I sat, in my black Crosby jersey, my head held high as the guys went into battle. I knew that my feelings about this team would remain unchanged, no matter the outcome.
I cheered for Hossa’s goal, and for Hall (or Kronwall) too. I was happy, but I knew better than to get over-confident. They say that a 2-goal lead is the most dangerous lead in hockey, and that cliché proved to be right last night.
The Stanley Cup was waiting in the hallway, polished and ready to be carried onto the ice. The champagne was cold, waiting to be sprayed around the dressing room. Detroit was nursing a one-goal lead. With less than a minute remaining in the game, and the fans on their feet, cheering and chanting, the seemingly impossible happened. Max Talbot was left alone beside the net and he banged away at the puck, sliding it behind Osgood for the tying goal.
Then, after almost 50 minutes of overtime hockey, Petr Sykora broke his scoring slump and netted the game-winner – a goal that he had predicted earlier in OT.
Back to Pittsburgh it is, Stanley Cup, champagne and all.
It was 2 AM, the game had just finished; I was shaking and I felt a tear slide down my cheek. I quickly realized that, no matter how this series ended, this game would be the highlight of the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals. It doesn’t matter if Detroit scores 9 goals and hoists the Cup tomorrow – what people will remember is how the Penguins managed to win game 5 when everything was going against them.
Few people truly believed that the Penguins would win game 5 in Detroit. The Pens showed up and got a few breaks – breaks they desperately needed – to put them up 2-0, but they saw that lead evaporate.
They battled and played with their hearts on their sleeves.
They did not give up, even when the entire building thought it was over.
Ryan Malone took a slap shot to the face and was back in the third period, blocking shots.
Sergei Gonchar hurt his back, but soldiered back in the third OT to set up the winning goal.
Marc-André Fleury channeled Patrick Roy, putting forth a truly inspiring performance when Detroit outworked and outskated the Penguins.
Petr Sykora called his own goal in OT, despite the fact that he hasn’t scored in the Finals.
Detroit may be outplaying the Penguins in this series, but the Pens showed unbelievable character and heart last night – something that the Red Wings have yet to match.
If the Penguins are unable to win the Cup this year, there will be no disappointment in my house. I will sit here, a thousand miles away, in my black Crosby sweater and with my head held high. I will salute them for their effort, their courage, and their heart.
I am proud of them, and I hope that they are proud of themselves.
And never again will I believe in that stupid superstition.
Friday, May 30, 2008
TSN is reporting that John Tortorella may be out of Tampa Bay this summer with Barry Melrose stepping in, if incoming owner Oren Koules has his way.
For those who don't know, Melrose is currently a hockey analyst with ESPN and used to coach the Los Angeles Kings - he even got them to the Stanley Cup Finals back in '93.
If, indeed, Torts is out, where will he go? Surely, he won't be left out on the market very long; someone will snatch him up very quickly.
Two teams looking for coaches are the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators. I can only imagine the sound bites if Torts agreed to coach a Canadian team. After all, it would be in the middle of enemy territory: TCM (The Canadian Media).
TCM must certainly be salivating at the thought of having Torts around town. I bet they are arming themselves with video cameras and microphones, ready to capture every insult on tape to broadcast every night and every morning on SportsCentre. Heck, they could probably create a Top 10 of Tortorella's media rants every single month.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
The hockey world and the small province of New Brunswick were stunned today when Canucks defenceman Luc Bourdon was killed in a motorcycle accident. He was driving his motorcycle and lost control, hitting a transport truck head-on.
He was only 21 years old and showed great promise as a hockey player. Drafted 10th overall in 2005, he played for Canada at the WJC twice. His first tournament was in 2006, where he had 6 points in 6 games and won gold for Brent Sutter's team. He came back to the Maritimes and found himself moving from Val d'Or to Moncton. While with Ted Nolan's Wildcats team, he made it all the way to the Memorial Cup finals, where the team lost to the Quebec Remparts.
This year, Bourdon split the season between the Canucks and their AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose. He was a plus-7, with 2 goals, in 27 games with Vancouver and he showed great promise as an NHL defenceman. Teams thought so highly of him that Tampa Bay wanted him in a deal for Brad Richards, but then-GM Dave Nonis refused to let him go.
It's never easy to hear of someone losing their life at such a young age, especially when their future looked so bright.
I admit, I was a little depressed after watching the first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals. The Pittsburgh team that I had seen all playoffs - all year - had magically disappeared and left a scared group of young hockey players in its wake.
True, I had predicted that Detroit would win the Cup in six games, but I started to question whether it would be sooner than that. Perhaps...a sweep.
I support my team to no end (prediction aside), but I was becoming more and more convinced that Pittsburgh's lack of experience had squashed their confidence, leaving them to run around the ice like chickens with their heads cut off. I know that I am not alone on that front.
With the series shifting to Pittsburgh, we all knew that it was a must-win game. Cliché, yes, but an accurate assessment. Sure, a team needs to win 4 games to win the Stanley Cup, but history is not exactly on the side of those teams who find themselves in a 0-3 crater-sized hole.
Add to that the fact that a couple of streaks were on the line. First, the Pens have not lost a home game since they lost to San Jose in late February - over 3 months ago. Second, MAF hasn't lost a home game since No-freakin'-vember. A loss in game 3, at home, would be catastrophic.
Coming into this game, I knew that the Pens had to score early to prove to themselves that Osgood is not a wall - that the Red Wings' defence is not impenetrable. I figured if they could just get a forecheck going...score their first goal of the Finals...then maybe they'd have a chance after all. A little confidence can go a long way.
I was understandably nervous as 9PM approached. As foolish as this seems, I gave in to my superstition and left my 'Crosby' jersey where it was. I figured if I didn't wear it, as I did for the first two games, then maybe - just maybe - Crosby would score and the Pens would win.
My applause goes out to the thousands of fans at Mellon Arena, who stood and chanted "Let's Go Pens" for minutes on end before the game began. The CBC broadcasters were wisely silent as the cameras panned the crowd, and it was a truly amazing sight. I wish I could have been there to take part.
For anyone who witnessed the first period of the game, you could see that this was a different Pittsburgh team than the one that played in Detroit. Sure, most of the players were the same, but it was as if they lost their jitters and figured out how to play against the Red Wings - and it made all the difference in the world. When Crosby scored his first goal of the game, I actually had tears in my eyes because I knew that the team I love was back.
So now the series score is 2-1 and the immediate future looks promising. I know that the Pens are still in a hole, but at least they know that Detroit is beatable.
If Crosby and the Pens show up and play the rest of the Finals like they did in game 3, who knows what could happen.
Fifteen hundred people showed up to watch the game at Cole Harbour Place - maybe they'll gather again later this summer to see their favourite son bring back the Stanley Cup.
You just never know what could happen with this Pittsburgh team.
You just never know.
Friday, May 23, 2008
We are now down to the wire: The Stanley Cup Finals
It's Pittsburgh's young guns vs. Detroit's experienced crew.
Predicting who will win Lord Stanley's Cup this year is virtually impossible. I started thinking it when the Pens and Wings were up 3-0 in their respective conference finals, and I only made a decision on Monday. It was probably the hardest decision I've made so far in these playoffs, and the most painful.
You see, I predict that the Red Wings will win in 6, with Lidstrom taking home the Conn Smythe.
Both teams have great offenses, and I'd give Pittsburgh the edge in this respect. Detroit has the Datsyuk/Zetterberg line, which is fantastic, but Pittsburgh has two number one lines centred by Crosby and Malkin. If Detroit gets Johan Frazen back (and it looks like they will later on in the series), then the Red Wings' offense pretty much matches Pittsburgh's.
Where this series will be won and lost is with defence. Pittsburgh has an underrated defensive corps and they will make things hard for the Red Wings, but they have yet to come across a team that is as solid defensively as Detroit. Ottawa was a mess, New York was inexperienced, and Philly was injured. The Red Wings are healthy and very good. The top two Pittsburgh lines will have to penetrate either Lidstrom/Rafalski or Stuart/Kronwall, and that will be very difficult to do. Add to that the fact that those top two defensive pairings for Detroit are very good offensively, and you have a team that will make it hard for the Pens to maintain puck possession.
Did I mention that Datsyuk and Zetterberg are also Selke nominees this year, or that Detroit is #1 in face-offs (and Pittsburgh is dead last)?
The buzz word going into this series is 'experience' - will Detroit's experience trump Pittsburgh's lack of experience? I tend to lean towards yes; Detroit has 20+ Cup rings on its roster, compared to Pittsburgh's three (if you count Sydor). Detroit also has a cast of players who have experienced failure in the playoffs, whether it be from defeat to the 8th seed (in 2006) or from defeat in the Conference Finals (in 2007).
If you look at history, lack of experience tends to go against a team in the Finals. Look at Edmonton's first run at the Cup in the early 80's, when they ran over the West but were then swept by an experienced Islanders team. Or how about last year's Ottawa Senators? Or how about Lebron James' Cavaliers in last year's NBA finals? Sometimes you need to lose it all before you can win it all.
All of this doesn't mean that I believe that the Red Wings will easily beat the Penguins. Heck, I think that there is a very good chance that the Pens can steal the Cup from the Red Wings. They have overcome so much adversity this year that it should not be surprising if Sidney Crosby leads his team to the ultimate prize. I WANT Pittsburgh to win, and I will be cheering for them to no end, but my gut feeling is telling me that Detroit has just a little bit more of an edge.
Okay, so now that I've stated my reasons for predicting that my team will not win this year, let's see what everyone is thinking. Faceoff Factor has an ever-updated list of what the media is thinking.
PITTSBURGH VS. DETROIT
Duthie: no response
Panger: no response
And here's an updated look at the standings so far:
Duthie: 6/10 *
Panger: 7/10 *
Milbury: 7/10 *
* I don't have the 2nd round predictions for Duthie, Panger or Milbury. I suck.
Monday, May 19, 2008
It is often said that, in team sports, bronze is better than silver because you have to win to get bronze, whereas you lose to get silver. I’m sure Team Canada would agree with that thought today after losing the World Championships in overtime.
It is certainly a tough pill to swallow. The 2008 Team Canada was said to be one of the strongest teams Canada has sent to the World Championships. In over 540 minutes of hockey, Canada trailed for less than 3 minutes. Dany Heatley set a number of modern day Canadian records, and half of the tournament’s top scorers wore the maple leaf. At the end of the day, though, they will have to settle for second best.
The pain on their faces was heartbreaking. You can hear the emotion in their voices as they talk about their failure.
But can this tournament really be considered a failure for Canada?
Sure, the mentality in this country is that, when it comes to hockey, it’s gold or nothing. However, you have to look at the bigger picture and the bigger prize – Vancouver 2010.
Although the end result of the 2008 World Championships did not favour Canada, it’s hard to deny that things look good for the 2010 Olympics. With the pressure of having the Olympics on home soil, this tournament gave Team Canada a small taste of what it will be like in 2010.
The World Championships is not usually high on the radar of most hockey-loving Canadians this time of year, since the NHL playoffs are in full force, but having the tournament in Canada and having all Canadian teams eliminated from the playoffs certainly made a lot of people pay attention.
You could argue that this World Championship team will not be the same team sent to Vancouver and there is certainly some merit in that argument, but the dominant play of this team at this tournament would lead me to believe that a lot of them will get the call. It has been said all tournament long that this was an audition for 2010, and a number of players played their way onto that team. Barring injury, I would fully expect Mike Green and Brent Burns to play again for the red and white. It is also a given that Dany Heatley, Rick Nash and Ryan Getzlaf will form Canada’s top line in 2010. And how about Jason Spezza on the checking/energy line? This tournament has allowed Hockey Canada to see how players adjust to a new system and to new linemates. A Sidney Crosby-Joe Thornton-Jarome Iginla line has been talked about for 2010, but no one really knows if it could work; we know that Heatley-Nash-Getzlaf works.
We also need to consider international rankings. Hockey nations are ranked according to their performances at international events, and the rankings at the conclusion of this tournament are going to be used for 2010. Since Canada did so well, and Sweden lost in their bronze medal game, Canada took over the number 1 spot in the world. This means that Canada will play in the first group at the Olympics with the 6th, 7th and 12th seeded teams – which, in theory, should make it easier for Team Canada.
So although this loss hurts to players and fans alike, we should all be proud of what has transpired at the 2008 World Championships. Lessons will be learned and taken to Vancouver in two years, where the ultimate prize will be up for grabs.
Few people remember Canada’s gold medal performance at Worlds in 2004, but we all remember the team that won in Salt Lake City.
I’ll take Olympic gold over a World Championship any day.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Put down the beer and stop the celebrations.
Sure, the Penguins managed to squeak their way into the Stanley Cup Finals, but they don't belong.
Many misguided fans will point to Pittsburgh's 12-2 record as a sign that this team is special, that this may be our year. They declare that the Pens are unbeaten on home ice since mid-late February, so dreams of Stanley are surely in our future! Mad, I say!
Are you all so blind as to think that today's game against the Flyers, a game in which the Pens won 6-0, is a true representation of the present-day Pittsburgh Penguins? I, for one, believe that the Penguins are much more like the team that showed up for game 4 against the Flyers and Rangers.
Everyone hails Marc-Andre Fleury as the second coming of Patrick Roy and they are certainly blind to his flaws. Perhaps the new white pads have made everyone believe that his game, or lack thereof, has truly changed for the better. I am not fooled. I have noticed his rebounds - I believe I counted 2 - MAYBE THREE! - today. An NHL goalie should be ashamed of himself for being so fundamentally unsound. I say bring back J-S Aubin!!
I was utterly appalled when he pulled his diving act today. I suppose he didn't get the memo that said that a professional hockey player is supposed to act as though nothing has happened when they get hit in the head with a hockey stick. I thought it was common knowledge that NHL players are not to even blink when hit with a stick, even a crosscheck to the jaw, but I guess that doesn't apply to the Penguins. The refs must be biased here, seeing as they clearly robbed the Flyers of a goal late in the second period. If that goal had stood like it should have, then Philly would have easily roared back and won the game.
Stupid refs, they all want Pittsburgh to win the Cup. It must be Gary Bettman, telling them to fix the game.
I cannot believe that I still hear people suggest that Sidney Crosby is the best player in the world, or that he ever was. If he is so good, then why is he so bad in the playoffs? Oh, and don't give me that "how can he be so bad if he has 21 points in 14 games" crap. He has what, like 2 goals? He should be scoring at least three every night, in addition to his collection of assists. He must be supremely jealous of Malkin and it is making him play poorly. That, and he's got to be hurt. He had that ankle thing this year, and a groin injury in the past, so he must be hurt. Maybe it's his wrist or his back - he's obviously an injury-prone player, so it could be anything (and probably is everything).
Malkin is another player that really pisses me off. Pens fans have placed him on a pedestal, saying that he is a good player and all that crap, but have you guys SEEN what he did in the playoffs? Did you see him get hit by the Flyers and FALL DOWN? Stand on your feet, buddy, for goodness sake. And then he made this crap move into the offensive zone and gave the puck to the Flyers, who are so great that they scored on this glorious gift. Malkin must be jealous of the attention given to Crosby, which is why he is has been so horrible.
And Marian Hossa? What on earth was Ray Shero thinking, trading Colby Armstrong, whatshisface, and Angelo Friggin' Esposito for him??!? Can you say FLOP? Sure, he can add a goal now and then, but I think I saw him turn over the puck at some point in the playoffs. You cannot make plays like that if you want to win, so Hossa obviously wants to fail.
I am so disgusted with Michel Therrien right now that I can hardly type his name without cringing. Everyone is so in love with him, saying that he has done a good job turning the Pens around in such a short period of time, but I wouldn't trust him to coach Timbit hockey. He should be fired.
It's an absolute disgrace that the Pens are allowed to advance so far in the playoffs because of favourable treatment by the refs and the NHL. On most occasions, the opposing teams are so discouraged when playing the Pens and being on the bad end of calls that it is so hard for them to overcome this adversity. Every now and then, though, a team will find a way to rise and come out on top, despite the preferential treatment given to the Pens, but it is virtually impossible to sustain it long enough to win a playoff series.
Is there justice in the sports world?
Friday, May 16, 2008
A few random thoughts à la Stoosh:
1. The Pens-Flyers games in Philly. I noticed that the crowd seems very interested in screaming "Crosby Sucks" all...game...long. Is it just me, or is it strange that they didn't spend more time cheering FOR their team instead of AGAINST one player on the other team?
2. Jordan Staal. What a guy. He leaves Philly to attend his grandfather's funeral and comes back and scores two goals for the Pens. He deserves all the credit in the world for doing that.
3. I'm absolutely sick of all the Philly-lovin' going on at CBC. No, I do not expect them to shower the Pens with love, but I do expect something a little more non-biased.
4. Speaking of CBC, I'm getting fed up with Bob Cole and Greg Millen. I usually don't mind them calling the game, but I guess I was spoiled by (1) Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson in the NYR series and (2) Gord Miller and Pierre McGuire in the World Championship games.
5. By the way, I wish that EVERY GAME I watched was called by Gord and Pierre. They are smart, funny, non-biased, passionate, and they throw out these little facts and stories that don't really relate to the game but let us get to know more about the players. They assume that viewers know the game and don't need to be told every single teeny tiny little detail about the game as it unfolds. I don't like 'hockey 101' treatment by the broadcasters.
6. There is so much hockey on TV right now, with the playoffs, the WC, and the Memorial Cup, but it will all be over in just a few weeks. Hard to believe that the season is almost done already.
7. MLSE is such a friggin' mess, it's not even funny anymore. Okay, maybe a little bit. I think the media will keep feeding the 'Brian Burke will come to save us...eventually' stories until it actually happens. So, while no hockey games will be played this summer, we will have continuously updated theories on what will happen with the Maple Leafs - who will take over as GM...who will coach the Leafs...which players will have their contracts bought out...which players will be traded...which players will be suckered into coming to Toronto...I think the only thing that is for certain is that Vesa Toskala will be the number 1 guy next season, but then again, you just NEVER KNOW.
Every evening at 7:30 I sit down in front of my TV and watch SportsCentre. In amongst the World Championship highlights, the NHL playoffs stories, the MLB scores (the Jays are no longer last!), and the Academy Award-worthy drama involving the Toronto Maple Leafs, I see a story about the NHL and Versus. I guess they are cooking up new ideas to bring to the 2 or 3 fans that have access to Versus.
Or drudge up bad ideas from the past. Take your pick.
See, the word out there is that Versus is planning on introducing a brand new puck tracker sometime soon. Now, you won't have to strain to see that black puck on the white ice - you'll have this comet-like tail of light streaming across your screen!
Something tells me that this won't be a popular idea among hockey fans in the States, and if they tried to sell that crap in Canada it would go over as well as privatized health care. And if Bettman actually thinks that this piece of technology is going to draw in more fans to the sport, then he is most definitely on something.
If Versus decides to make hockey a little more 'flashy', I hope it stays States-side. I don't want that thing messing up my screen when TSN broadcasts a Penguins game using the Versus feed.
Friday, May 9, 2008
I know I'm a little late putting these up, but better late than never, right?
On April 23rd, I made my second round predictions, and I got half of them right. That's not too bad considering Keith Jones - who went 8/8 in round 1 - only got one correct prediction in round 2.
Here are the standings so far:
Duthie: 5/8 *
Panger: 5/8 *
Milbury: 5/8 *
* I don't have the 2nd round predictions for Duthie, Panger or Milbury. I suck.
Now, I am clearly beating everyone, even the so-called 'hockey insider' Bob McKenzie (sorry Bob, I love ya anyway).
Here's what everyone is thinking for Round 3...
PITTSBURGH VS. PHILADELPHIA
Ashley - PITTSBURGH
Susie - PITTSBURGH
Maggie - PITTSBURGH
Duthie - PITTSBURGH
Milbury - PITTSBURGH
Panger - PITTSBURGH
McKenzie - PITTSBURGH
Cherry - PITTSBURGH <--maybe it's because he loves Staal
DETROIT VS. DALLAS
Ashley - DETROIT
Susie - DETROIT
Maggie - DETROIT
Duthie - DALLAS
Milbury - DETROIT
Panger - DETROIT
McKenzie - DETROIT
Cherry - DETROIT
Check out Faceoff Factor for staff predictions. I'm tied for the lead because I'm just that damn good. Or, the hockey gods are smiling down on me and giving me a whole lotta luck.
Let's just hope that my predictions are spot on this time around, especially in the East. It would suck big time if Philly started prancing around with Stanley Cup dreams in their heads.
And just so everyone knows, I made my predictions Monday night before I heard what everyone else was saying.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
The Montreal Canadiens were the so-called miracle team of the season. Few believed that they would even make the playoffs, let alone finish first in the conference. The possibilities excited Habs fans and led them to dream of La Coupe.
Looks like it wasn’t meant to be.
The Philadelphia Flyers lost the first game of the series, but came back to win the next four and vault themselves into the Eastern Conference Finals. Not bad for an organization that blew up its team after finishing dead last in the NHL last year.
There is much focus on what went wrong with the Habs. Gosh darn it, they were supposed to end the Cup drought in Canada this year. They were so good in the regular season, but average at best in the post season.
Everyone is talking about the young Carey Price. It’s pretty obvious that he let in some soft goals but he is so far ahead of the learning curve as it is that no Habs fan should be worried. He has shown us time and time again throughout the regular season that he plays a sound game. He is almost always in position and gives up few rebounds. I just think that the pressure of playing playoff hockey in Montreal got to him this past month and he was mentally tired from playing so much hockey in the last 18 months. He will learn from this experience and be that much tougher to play against next season. Who knows, maybe ‘the plan’ of winning number 25 next year – the Habs’ 100th anniversary - will work.
Something that people are not talking much about is how well the Flyers played (I can’t believe I just wrote that). They played a hard-hitting game, yet weren’t overly dirty. They got traffic in front of Price and scored and scored again. Briere was great and Biron came up with the big saves, but Umberger was the Johan Franzen of the East, scoring 8 goals against Montreal.
The Habs, on the other hand, allowed Biron to see just about every shot coming at him – it’s hard to score when the goalie sees you coming from a mile away. The Flyers also got into the heads of the Canadiens. I swear it was as though the Habs were scared of the Flyers. You’re not going to win many battles when you shy away from the opponent.
All in all, the Flyers deserved to win that series.
But thumbs up to the Montreal crowd for showing their support for their goalie even when the game was out of reach. Very classy.
Friday, April 25, 2008
The World Championships will be held in Halifax and Quebec City from May 2nd to May 18th, and I will be covering the tournament for Faceoff Factor.
Make sure to stop by FF on a regular basis to check out the WC coverage, as well as coverage of the NHL playoffs.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
A few weeks ago, I made my first round playoff predictions and compared them to Susie, my dog, and the TSN crew: Maggie the Monkey, James Duthie, Darren Pang, Mike Milbury, and Bob McKenzie. Here's the results:
Now, I don't mean to 'brag' or anything, but I did better than the so-called experts when it came to round 1 predictions. Unfortunately, in the dog vs. monkey category, Maggie is running away with the title so far.
Tonight, TSN had their round 2 playoff special and Maggie, McKenzie, and Darren Dreger offered their predictions. Here's how it all went down...
MONTREAL VS. PHILADELPHIA
Ashley - MONTREAL
Susie - MONTREAL
Maggie - MONTREAL
McKenzie - MONTREAL
Dreger - PHILADELPHIA
PITTSBURGH VS. NEW YORK
Ashley - PITTSBURGH
Susie - NEW YORK
Maggie - NEW YORK
McKenzie - PITTSBURGH
Dreger - PITTSBURGH
DETROIT VS. COLORADO
Ashley - DETROIT
Susie - DETROIT
Maggie - DETROIT
McKenzie - DETROIT
Dreger - DETROIT
SAN JOSE VS. DALLAS
Ashley - SAN JOSE
Susie - DALLAS
Maggie - SAN JOSE
McKenzie - SAN JOSE
Dreger - SAN JOSE
I was watching Up Front on OTR tonight and Landsberg said that Keith Jones went 8/8 in round one. He gave his predictions for round 2, so I thought I'd put them down...
SAN JOSE SHARKS
NEW YORK RANGERS - on their way to the Cup (WTF?)
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
This article was linked in Pensblog's c-blog, and it is just too good to not post here.
According to Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo Blogs, Sean Avery may have a new position once his Rangers lose in the second round of the playoffs: a Vogue intern.
Yep, THAT Vogue....Anna Wintour and all.
I wonder if Avery will be demeaned and insulted at every turn...maybe they could call him 'fatso'.
I hope the fashion world keeps him.
The NHL is announcing their nominees for the NHL Awards, and yesterday was goalie day.
The three Vezina nominees in 2008:
King Henrik Lundqvist (is that how you spell it?)
Hmm...I'd give it to Brodeur this year. Nabokov may have won more games, but the Devils took a big hit in free agency and Brodeur carried the team to the playoffs.
Today was d-man day, with the Norris nominees being:
Okay, Lidstrom will likely win since he's the best thing since #4 was in the NHL. Phaneuf definitely deserves the nomination since he's one hell of a defenceman. But Chara? Sure, he's good - really good - but I would've liked to see Gonchar get some recognition for the first time ever. He was not only reliable in terms of points (as usual), but he has really improved in his own end, too. Maybe I'm a little biased, but whatever - Gonchar gets no love from the NHL.
Last night, the Habs won their first round series against the Boston Bruins by a score of 5-0. The Bruins showed up to play and were great in the first period, but Carey Price was just a little better.
This win means that the Habs are now 27-0 when they lead a playoff series 3 games to 1, and Price became the fourth rookie goalie to record a shutout in a game 7.
This kid is the real deal. He may not lead the Canadiens to the Cup this year, but there is something about him that makes me confident that the Habs are in good hands for the next several years. Everyone comments about how calm, cool and collected he is on the ice, and that is the truth. In fact, I don't think I've ever really seen him anything but calm - just watch him in interviews.
Do I forget about games 5 and 6, when he let in 10 goals? No, but I also don't forget the previous 8 games, when he let in 10 goals in those 8 games. I also don't forget about how his team messed up in front of him, which led to some of those goals in games 5 and 6.
Price will make mistakes - that's the price (no pun intended) you pay when you have a 20-year-old starting goalie - but he will do good things for the Habs.
Okay, enough about that...
Anybody who has seen a Montreal Canadiens game at the Bell Centre (whether it be live and in person, or on TV) will know that Habs fans are very vocal. I've said this before - that place can rock like no other arena in the NHL. I personally love how they sing and are so passionate about their team.
A lot of people don't like how they 'boo' the best player(s) on the other team. In the Boston series, it was the Zdeno Chara that heard the boo-birds when he touched the puck. Boston fans, in turn, booed Alex Kovalev. I think that some people believe that these fans don't appreciate the talent of these players, but I would have to disagree with that idea - I think that fans acknowledge how important and how talented these select players are, and they single them out and voice their displeasure over these players touching the puck. I think of it as these fans showing how passionate they are for the game and showing their support for the home team.
That passion and support for the Habs was out full force last night, especially with the Canadiens playing so well. CBC showed the fans partying and singing in the streets, waving their flags and hugging each other.
Who would have guessed that something else would happen...
Some people decided to riot. Police cars were set on fire, other cars slashed and vandalized, stores looted, and all the likes. Many are left scratching their heads over this one - why riot when your team wins...after round frickin' 1? Besides, it's not like this is 1955. Maybe they were upset that Jean Chrétien and Stéphane Dion were in attendance at the Bell Centre...who knows.
I'm upset that some 'fans' would decide to do this (although one could make the argument that there were few Habs fans among this gang of schmucks), but I'm also upset that some people believe that most or all of Habs fans exhibit this kind of behaviour. It really bothers me that we're looked at like we're some 'crazy French people' who are, essentially, psychotic. I know that 99% of Habs fans are good people who are upset over this incident, just like I know that 99% of Bruins fans would not kick a person in the head for wearing another team's sweater.
So, to the world out there that looks down at us Habs fans, we're normal hockey fans. We love our team. We voice our displeasure when they don't play as well as we know they can. We scream and sing in absolute joy when they show us their heart and soul on the ice. We celebrate our victories, whether they come in 4 games or in 7, because we believe that victories should be celebrated. It has been awhile since the mayor of Montreal has said that the Stanley Cup parade will be held on the 'usual' route, but we also have faith that the team can win Cup #25 sooner rather than later...and before the Leafs win #14.
[Go Pens, Go Habs]
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Les Canadiens de Montréal missed their shot Thursday night. Leading the series 3-1, they could have delivered the knockout punch to the Boston Bruins.
They could have, but they didn't.
The last 30 minutes or so showed a Carey Price that we haven't seen in awhile. He was average, at best, which only magnified his team's scoring problems.
The Habs finished the season with the best power play in the NHL, but you would never know it in this series. Add to that their inability to score many goals 5-on-5, and you have a team that relies on its goalie. Carey Price may be an unbelievable goalie, but he is only 20 years old and playing under the microscope in Montreal.
The Boston Bruins, on the other hand, are playing very well. They didn't beat the Habs all season, but they won game 3 in Boston, and they handed it to the Canadiens in game 5.
The series is now returning to Boston and the Bruins have all the confidence in the world. The Canadiens are getting Saku Koivu and Francis Bouillon back and are in a position where they must win this game. They do not want to lose again and have the pressure of a game 7....and to have that game in Montreal.
I want the Habs to get it done and move on to round 2, but I am not super-confident. Claude Julien was coaching the Habs in 2004 when they were playing the Bruins and came back from a 3-1 deficit to win the series in 7. Can he lead the Bruins to the same result? If so, it may be the biggest upset of the post-season.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Sean Avery is the so-called 'bad boy' of the NHL.
I'd rather call him an immature, selfish little brat.
We all know what he did against Marty Brodeur in game 3 the other day. Most people thought it was hilarious, creative...blah blah whatever.
I thought it was further proof that he is better suited for kindergarten than the NHL playoffs.
Then, to top things off, he decided to show the media his middle finger during practice yesterday after he noticed that cameras were trained on him.
Good job Avery, you showed the world which is the 'bad' finger.
So many people say that they would love to have Avery on their team, but I wouldn't touch him with a 10 foot pole. He thinks only of himself and I am not convinced that he would make your team better. His act is wearing thin and, before too long, he will be looking for a new career (though I don't know who would hire him).
As I've said before, I am a Pittsburgh fan first, Montreal second, and then comes the rest of the Canadian teams (including Ottawa, who I cheered for last year after they sent the Penguins packing...there was a period of mourning, of course), so I say this with a certain amount of respect.
One year ago when the Sens were in the playoffs, they deserved to play for the Cup. They outplayed every single team in the Eastern Conference, but then turtled in the Cup Finals. I thought they learned their lesson, and it certainly looked like they had in October/November when they went on that 15-2 run. The rest of the season was crap, but I thought that they would be harder to play in the playoffs.
I never expected that the Penguins would be in a position to sweep the Senators, yet here we are, hours before the start of game 4, with the Pens leading 3-0. Granted, the Sens have showed sparks of great play in the previous 3 games, including that 3-goal performance in game 2 that allowed them to tie the game, but they don't have the drive and the will to win. Gerber is playing his heart out and is giving his team the chance to win, but the rest of the crew has been invisible.
The most telling sign was game 3. The Senators played very well for most of the game and the score was tied after the second period. However, after the Pens scored 2 early in the third and Hossa added the fourth goal, the Sens just rolled over. I could not believe my eyes - they lost intensity, and they played as though they just wanted to get off the ice. They allowed the Penguins to control the puck and to waste time. If any team in the NHL could erase a 3-goal deficit in 10 minutes, it is (was) the Senators, but they didn't try.
This is a team that has lost its identity, its self-esteem, it's will. Where were the leaders on Monday night when the Pens took the lead? Where were Alfredsson, Spezza, Heatley? They could have and should have motivated their teammates, but everyone was invisible. If a team can just roll over after allowing a few goals, how are they supposed to try to win four games to move on to round 2? Murray is reuniting the Alfredsson-Spezza-Heatley line, but that is too little, too late.
Let's hope Spezza and Heatley decide to show up and play well for Team Canada next month, because that's the only hockey they'll be playing in May.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
I'm watching the Montreal-Boston game on CBC and the only thing that indicates that the game is being played in Boston is the fact that the Bruins are wearing their black jerseys, and the Habs are in their whites.
I guess that's what happens when the Sox are playing the Yankees.
Head coach Claude Julien said that his team might be in trouble because of that baseball game. You usually think that when you return home, the crowd will be crazy in your favour. Tonight, it's 50-50.
They say that the lineups at the border this morning were an hour long. I do believe half of Quebec traveled to Boston this afternoon.
Every time Chara touches the puck, he is booed. The fans try to get on Thomas by screaming, "Tommmyyyyyyyyy, Tommmmmmyyyyyy". When the Habs nail the Bruins, a deafening cheer goes up. If the Habs score a goal, the only thing missing from the screaming and waving towels is the horn. Oh, and there's the 'Ole Ole Ole!" song, which I happen to love.
I truly believe that no fanbase has the lungs of the fans of the Montreal Canadiens. It is always a party in those stands, and every single one of them must return home with a case of laryngitis. And now the fans have taken the party on the road.
Good times. Go Habs.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
My very first YouTube video. I suck at anything using a computer, but I wanted to upload this song. Just substitute the "Maple Leafs" for "Penguins" :)
(weird, I know, since I usually like the Senators and would cheer for them if they weren't playing the Pens or Habs...but it's the playoffs and as long as the Pens are still in it, everyone else is 'the enemy')
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Pens win. Fleury gets the shutout. Roberts the hockey god scores 2 goals, meaning 14 of his 32 playoff goals (ALMOST HALF!) are against the Senators.
Here's this for another stat: In 11 playoff seasons, they have been SHUTOUT FIVE TIMES in the series opener. How sickening is THAT?
Eugene Melnyk = stunned. Roberts was the only player he had ever wanted to get.
One down, fifteen to go.
Yesterday, it was Team Canada releasing their partial roster for the WC. Today, it was Team USA's turn.
The list has 17 players, with an average of only 23.9 years. That being said, nine of these players have previous WC experience.
Pat Kane (CHI)
Peter Mueller (PHO)
David Backes (STL)
Lee Stempniak (STL)
Dustin Brown (LAK)
Patrick O'Sullivan (LAK)
Jeff Halpern (TBL)
Drew Stafford (BUF)
Dustin Byfuglien (CHI)
Jason Pominville (BUF)
Paul Gaustad (BUF)
David Booth (BUF)
Tom Gilbert (EDM)
Keith Ballard (PHO)
Matt Greene (EDM)
James Wisniewski (CHI)
Craig Anderson (FLA)
The one thing that made me look twice at the roster was the addition of Jason Pominville, who's from Repentigny, Quebec. I didn't know he was a dual citizen...
The Americans will play a pre-tournament game in Portland, ME on April 27th before heading to Halifax and playing the Latvians on May 2nd.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Who will get to wear the jersey for Canada this May???
GM Steve Yzerman announced the first round of Canucks that will represent the Maple Leafs at the World Championships in Halifax and Quebec City. A number of them are no strangers to Team Canada's roster, as 8 have played in the WC.
The players so far include...
Rick Nash (CBJ)
Shane Doan (PHO)
Jamal Mayers (STL)
Jason Chimera (CBJ)
Derek Roy (BUF)
Patrick Sharp (CHI)
Marty St. Louis (TBL)
Eric Staal (CAR)
Jonathan Toews (CHI)
Ray Whitney (CAR)
Jay Bouwmeester (FLA)
Duncan Keith (CHI)
Steve Staios (EDM)
Cam Ward (CAR)
Pascal Leclaire (CBJ)
The next round of players will be announced after the conclusion of the Quarterfinals.
Canada opens the WC against Slovenia in Halifax on May 2nd.
Watch Rick Nash own Kari Lehtonen in last year's gold medal game...
(From the Canadian Press, TSN.ca)
Sidney Crosby would have never admitted this a year ago but on the eve of his second NHL playoffs, the Pittsburgh Penguins superstar centre revealed just how awestruck he and his young teammates were when the puck first dropped last spring in Ottawa.
''The first 10 minutes,'' an introspective Crosby said Tuesday. ''I mean, it felt like they had eight guys out there. We were just watching, trying to feel it out. They weren't. They were taking the play to us.''
Even the great ones have to learn for themselves. No matter how much veterans such as Gary Roberts had warned his young bucks, the intensity and emotion of the NHL playoffs is something players must experience first-hand before knowing how to prepare for it.
''You can watch as much as you want but being in that atmosphere, being in that environment, knowing how to react and things like that - just having that sense of `I've been through this before,''' said Crosby. ''It's very emotional when you're in the playoffs so the more you're prepared for what can happen, the better you are.''
''Nobody likes to lose,'' said Crosby. ''We have a lot of guys who have a lot of pride and character and don't accept losing. We want to be better for that experience and hopefully this is our chance to prove it.''
Roberts has noticed the difference in his young teammates a year later.
''Mentally I think we're a stronger team this time around just because of what we went through in the playoffs last year and the adversity that we went through this season to finish second in the conference,'' said Roberts.
Crosby also points to the adversity his team faced this season as another growth factor. Both he and Fleury were among the long list of key injuries but the Penguins never lost a beat.
''It would have been easy to have a lot of excuses for not winning this year,'' said Crosby. ''We lost our goalie for three months. Myself, Roberts, (Mark) Eaton. The list goes on. We came out of that, which I think says a lot about the character of our team. I think we're a stronger group than we were a year ago.''
Crosby was flying on the ice during his team's practice ahead of Wednesday night's opener against the Senators in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference quarter-final (CBC, 7 p.m. ET). Anyone who saw him skate Tuesday would not believe all the rumours suggesting the 20-year-old native of Cole Harbour, N.S., is still hampered by the high ankle sprain that knocked him out of 28 games from January to March.
''I'm fine,'' he said. ''I think there's a lot of speculation with my ankle because they sat me out on Sunday (in Pittsburgh's regular-season finale). But that's really not the case. It was more of just getting a rest and just making sure that I'm ready for the playoffs.
''But the ankle is giving me no problems whatsoever.''
That's a scary thought for Senators fans who saw him collect five points (3-2) in his first five career playoff games last spring despite, it was later revealed, playing on a broken foot.
Now he says he's healthy this time around, until that is, a Senators player gives him a two-hand chop a la Bobby Clarke on his ankle. That was the suggestion of a columnist in Tuesday's edition of the Ottawa Sun, a story that quickly made the rounds of the Penguins dressing room.
Get ready, Ottawa Senators, because it's payback time.
Twenty-four hours until puck drop.
[Hossa - Crosby - Fleury - Malkin]
MONTREAL VS. BOSTON
Ashley - CANADIENS
Susie - BRUINS
Maggie the Monkey - CANADIENS
James Duthie - CANADIENS
Darren Pang - CANADIENS
Mike Milbury - CANADIENS
Bob McKenzie - CANADIENS
PITTSBURGH VS. OTTAWA
Ashley - PENGUINS
Susie - PENGUINS
Maggie the Monkey - PENGUINS
James Duthie - PENGUINS
Darren Pang - PENGUINS
Mike Milbury - PENGUINS
Bob McKenzie - PENGUINS
WASHINGTON VS. PHILADELPHIA
Ashley - FLYERS
Susie - CAPITALS
Maggie the Monkey - FLYERS
James Duthie - CAPITALS
Darren Pang - CAPITALS
Mike Milbury - CAPITALS
Bob McKenzie - CAPITALS
NEW JERSEY VS. NEW YORK
Ashley - RANGERS
Susie - DEVILS
Maggie the Monkey - DEVILS
James Duthie - RANGERS
Darren Pang - DEVILS
Mike Milbury - RANGERS
Bob McKenzie - RANGERS
DETROIT VS. NASHVILLE
Ashley - RED WINGS
Susie - PREDATORS
Maggie the Monkey - RED WINGS
James Duthie - RED WINGS
Darren Pang - RED WINGS
Mike Milbury - RED WINGS
Bob McKenzie - RED WINGS
SAN JOSE VS. CALGARY
Ashley - SHARKS
Susie - FLAMES
Maggie the Monkey - SHARKS
James Duthie - SHARKS
Darren Pang - SHARKS
Mike Milbury - SHARKS
Bob McKenzie - SHARKS
MINNESOTA VS. COLORADO
Ashley - AVALANCHE
Susie - WILD
Maggie the Monkey - WILD
James Duthie - WILD
Darren Pang - AVALANCHE
Mike Milbury - WILD
Bob McKenzie - AVALANCHE
ANAHEIM VS. DALLAS
Ashley - DUCKS
Susie - DUCKS
Maggie the Monkey - DUCKS
James Duthie - DUCKS
Darren Pang - DUCKS
Mike Milbury - DUCKS
Bob McKenzie - DUCKS
Pittsburgh Penguins beating the New York Rangers in the East
San Jose Sharks beating the Detroit Red Wings in the West
San Jose Sharks winning the Stanley Cup against the Pittsburgh Penguins
Monday, April 7, 2008
Back in August, I decided to make a few predictions concerning the 2007-08 season. Those predictions centered around how the final standings would look. Well, since the season is now over, maybe we should take a look at those predictions and laugh about how dumb I was last summer.
1. Ottawa (President's Trophy)---Montreal
2. New York Rangers---Pittsburgh
4. Pittsburgh---New Jersey
5. Buffalo---New York Rangers
7. New Jersey---Ottawa
9. Tampa Bay---Carolina
13. New York Islanders---New York Islanders
15. Boston---Tampa Bay
1. Detroit---Detroit (President's Trophy)
2. Anaheim---San Jose
4. San Jose---Anaheim
9. St. Louis---Edmonton
13. Los Angeles---Columbus
14. Columbus---St. Louis
15. Phoenix---Los Angeles
Where I was wayyyy off base:
Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Washington, Atlanta, Boston...basically most of the Eastern Conference
Vancouver, St. Louis, Minnesota...I did much better in the West.
Where I was spot on:
Islanders, Chicago, Detroit
Better luck next year, I suppose....
Tomorrow night I'll post my predictions for round 1 of the playoffs, along with my dog's predictions and the predictions of the TSN crew and Maggie. I'll keep tabs on how everyone does and we'll see who is the best playoff predictor in June.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
When it comes to women's international hockey, it's hard to argue the notion that the sport is dominated by Canada and the United States. Since the first world championships in 1990, the only team Canada has lost to in international tournaments has been the US, and (other than a semi-finals loss to Sweden in the Torino Olympics) the US has only lost to Canada.
Many critics have argued that this is unfair and that women's hockey should not be an Olympic sport because it is one-sided (or two-sided). After all, for most teams, the main battle has been for the bronze medal.
Critics call Team Canada names because they always play a hard game from the opening faceoff until the last buzzer, and typically win by a large margin. I can only imagine what they'll say after today's 11-0 victory over Team China (with a 5-save shutout by Charline Labonte - though she said that she faced 8 or 9 shots) at the 2008 World Championships in China. Afterall, everyone gave them crap for winning 16-0 against Team Italy at the 2006 Olympics.
Here's my opinion: Canada, the United States, and every other team should play to the best of their abilities at all times. For Canada or the US to dumb down their games when they play other teams is completely disrespectful in itself. It sends the message that the other teams are not worthy of their best game. It also lets a few bad habits creep into your game, which will bite you in the ass in the later rounds.
The win over China is not exactly surprising. Just take a look at the number of registered female hockey players in each country: Canada has 70,000....China has less than 150. Something similar can be said about many countries (say, Italy).
Sure, many teams will get clobbered by Canada and the US, as has been the case in years past, but those teams are getting better. Sweden is starting to catch up, thanks in large part to super-goalie Kim Martin. Finland is getting better too. The playing field will soon be level, and it won't be a sport dominated by the US and Canada. Remember when the Soviet Union dominated international hockey in the 60s and 70s and nobody could beat them? Well, things have changed, starting with the "Miracle on Ice" team at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics.
Canada and the US may be on top of the pile right now, but other teams will take their experiences against us to learn.
As Team China head coach Steve Carlyle said following today's game, "We'd been looking forward to that game all year. It was an emotional letdown for us. This was an opportunity to play the best team in the world and learn. We still have a long way to go. Team Canada respected us by battling hard through the entire game.''
He hasn't made any announcements, but everyone seems to know.
He flew his parents to Vancouver to see the final game of the Canucks' season, a game in which the fans all held banners declaring their appreciation for Linden.
Fans of the Vancouver Canucks love Trevor Linden. Heck, even fans of other teams acknowledge how special a player he is and was for that franchise. He was more of a Canuck than anyone else in Vancouver history.
And it seems that the 'Trevor Linden Era' is now over. Tonight appeared to be the last NHL game in Linden's career.
He may not have scored a goal tonight. In fact, his team lost 7-1 to Calgary, but he was named the number one star of the night because that is what the fans wanted. He came out and skated around the rink, saluting the fans as they stood and cheered for the man who was once their captain.
The Canucks took to the ice after the game and gave their jerseys to fans. The cameras seemed to be stuck on Linden as he signed his jersey and handed it over to a young woman before sitting down on the bench. CBC then trained their cameras on UFA Markus Naslund, who is not expected to return next season.
The Vancouver Canucks are losing a quiet, humble, honest and thoughtful player - a true leader - but he will soon return to GM Place to watch the team raise his number 16 to the rafters.
He did return to play Game 7, but lost the Cup to Messier's Rangers.
You'll be missed, Linden.
Saturday, April 5, 2008
Next season will be all about the Montreal Canadiens. It will be the 100th anniversary of the team, so the National Hockey League will help the Habs celebrate accordingly.
First off, the Habs will host "Le Match Des Etoiles" (aka The All-Star Game) in January 2009. That summer, Montreal will host the NHL Awards Show - something normally held in Toronto - and the 2009 NHL Draft (aka The Tavares Sweepstakes).
Now, we are told that the Canadiens have put in a bid to host an outdoor game that winter at the Molson Stadium, which normally hosts the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL.
Deputy commish Bill Daly didn't say much about the report: "It's not something we want to overdo," he said. "We want to keep it special."
All of these events will make things exciting in Montreal (is anything in Montreal ever boring??), but what fans want most in 2009 is their 25th Stanley Cup - that is, if they don't win the whole thing in 2008.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
I have been hard on Ottawa since, well, late last fall when the big downward spiral begun. I just didn't get how the team that kicked Pittsburgh....New Jersey...Buffalo....out of the playoffs in 07 just kinda fell apart.
Well, tonight's game against the Leafs shows that they aren't completely done. Maybe it was because the Leafs are done and have a few newbies in the lineup, and maybe it's because Mats Sundin is gone...who knows. But I just checked the box score of the game and the Sens are up 8-2 over the Leafs with about 7:30 left in the third.
Even strength goals? Check. Three of them.
Power play goals? Check. Check.
SH goals? Check...times 3. Two of them by some guy named "C. Bass"....oops, I guess Vermette got his stick on that second C. Bass SH goal.
Oh well. Still made me think of Dumb and Dumber...
I'm sure Sens fans are loving this, especially after being shut out in their last 2 games. The offense is clicking!!! Yay!!!
But will it show up for the playoff?
And which defense will play next week: the leaky one that exposes the goaltenders' weaknesses, or the one that got the team to the Cup Finals last year?
As for the Leafs, I feel bad for Toskala - Maurice didn't pull him. I don't care if your team is out of the playoff race or not, you don't let your goalie suffer like that if you have a backup that is able to play. Remember Patrick Roy's final game with Montreal?
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Less than one week to go, people...
TSN has announced their 3-hr playoff preview extravaganza to be broadcast Monday night starting at 7PM ET.
Sad about the thought of missing the Playoff Preview coverage? Don't worry - the NHL Network is picking up the broadcast, and TSN.ca is showing the goods live and on-demand.
Here's how it all breaks down:
7PM ET: McGuire's Monsters (TSN, TSN.ca, NHL Network)
Pierre McGuire will announce his team of 'Monsters' - those who are the consummate team players - in his third annual Monsters special. Last year it was Sidney Crosby...will Ovechkin get the nod this season?
7:30 PM ET: Fantasy Playoff Special (TSN, TSN.ca, NHL Network)
This part of the extravaganza sees James Duthie hosting a fantasy draft among the so-called 'experts' - Hockey Insider Darren Dreger, analysts Dave Hodge, Mike Milbury, and Keith Jones (reigning Fantasy King). Each team will have 6 forwards, 3 D, and 1 goalie. Points are awarded according to goals and assists (1 point each), victory and shutout (for goalies, 1 point each). Expect a lot of smack talk as they criticize each other's choices.
8PM ET: Scotiabank NHL Draft Lottery Special (TSN, TSN.ca, NHL Network, Versus, NHL.com)
This is the second time the Draft Lottery will be televised (the first time being the "Sidney Crosby Sweepstakes" in 2005, and this time being the "Stamkos Sweepstakes"). There will be live coverage of the Lottery, and Stamkos will join the mix via satellite as he learns where he will begin his NHL career. Hockey Insider Bob McKenzie will also give his Top 10 list of players eligible for this year's draft and Mad Mike Milbury will be on hand to give his two cents before and after the big event in NYC.
8:30PM ET: NHL on TSN Playoff Preview Special (TSN, TSN.ca, NHL Network)
This 90-minute show is what we are all waiting for - the in-depth analysis of each playoff series. McKenzie, Milbury and Darren Pang will be around to tell it like it is (they may be right, or probably wrong). Everyone on the broadcast team will declare their predictions, and the ever-popular Maggie the Monkey will return to prove everyone wrong. Remember a few years back when the national media ran all kinds of stories saying that Maggie the Monkey was smarter than the so-called 'experts'? I wonder if it will happen once again - how great would that be? Anyways, Panger will also breakdown the goalie matchups, Dreger will name the 16 people (one from each team) who go into the playoffs in the 'hot seat', Hodge will do his 'Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down' segment, and there will be a feature on the active player with the most Stanley Cups to his name - Scotty Niedermayer.
If you don't have some kind of emergency, then I'd suggest tuning in to the broadcast. I always find these guys entertaining as hell, and their extensive coverage of various NHL events (see Free Agent Frenzy day, TradeCentre, the NHL Draft) is always worth watching.
You ain't gonna get this stuff on ESPN.