Gross Misconduct Hockey Thoughts from a drifter on the hockey landscape

05/22/2010

I was on the radio – For real

Big thanks to Matt and Jeff on The Weekend Warmup at 96.3 the Big Jab in Portland, Maine for having me on the show with them this morning talking about hockey. Being a one-time radio producer, it was fun to be on the other end of the phone this time.

We talked Bruins failure, Bruins future and whether or not Joe Thornton is finally being Chokie Chokerson or not in the playoffs.

Part 1 is here.  5-22-10-BigJab-Portland-ME-Part1

Part 2 is here. 5-22-10-BigJab-Portland-ME1-Part2

The guys are still smarting over the Bruins and who can blame them really.

05/25/2009

Keeping It Real – The Day After

It’s funny, I figured that by citing the Chappelle Show in my last entry about how Brian Campbell was maybe the last guy to step up and start swearing vengeance was going to go over poorly, but Ike th didn’t think it would actually play out lie skits do on the show.

So how did Brian Campbell and the Chicago Blackhawks enact their revenge on Niklas Kronwall and the wildly short-handed Detroit Red Wings (who were missing Pavel Datsyuk, Nicklas Lidstrom and Kris Draper in Game 4)?

Well…

First there’s this. You’ll see Brian Campbell in this video pinched in too far on the power play (he’s behind the Detroit net!) leaving Cam Barker by himself as the Red Wings break shorthanded the other way two-on-one.

Then there’s this one where Campbell is used as a screen by Johan Franzen who proceeds to shoot the puck BETWEEN HIS LEGS and over the shoulder of Cristobal Huet.

And then there’s Valtteri Filppula who scores off a rebound untouched after Marian Hossa uncorks one from the left wing side.

Who jumped out on Filppula after he gained the zone in the first place?

You guessed it… Frank Stallone.

Er, Brian Campbell.

What makes this all the more amusing is that the third goal, a power play goal for Filppula (one of three power play goals the Red Wings would score in a 6-1 rout of the Blackhawks) is that apparently Joel Quenneville had some issues with how the Red Wings got that power play in the first place.

That’s right folks, the worst call in the history of sports. I can’t rip into Quenneville as well as his own fans can, so leave it to the folks at Second City Hockey to step in and do the job for me:

Joel Quenneville – You were brought in to keep your cool and provide a guiding hand for a young team. Your players saw you lose your composure, and promptly followed suit. That outburst was unacceptable.

Unacceptable, immature, and about a thousand other adjectives you could throw in there. As for me, let me just offer up one suggestion for Joel Quenneville:


Wire Brushes: Guaranteed to get the sand out of your vadge or your money back!

Use that in your nether regions to get the sand out of the most delicate of crevices. Perhaps you could get away with whining like that in just about any other series.

Not this one though, not after what happened with Niklas Kronwall in Game 3. This is frustrated petulance at its ugliest out of Coach Quenneville. It also allows me to quote myself:


Hyperbole is a dangerous verbal weapon because it often renders the user stupid.

As for Martin Havlat, he played in this game.

Ballsy? You bet.

Gutsy? Absolutely!

Stupid? You bet your sweet ass it was and here’s why:

You won’t get a closer view of that, but that was Havlat getting taken out by Brad Stuart. He left the ice and did not return to the game after that. What Havlat is doing out there in the first place will remain a mystery as Coach Quenneville already made it a point to cover his tracks and proclaim that all was well.

You can lie to us all you want, coaches do it all the time, but you can’t lie to us about this one because this is what Marty Havlat looked like in Game 3:


The guy from The Karate Kid was heard yelling, “Get him a body bag! YEAH!”

You cannot tell me he had it all together enough to be even thought of as remotely ready to play. Jesus, looking at this picture hurts my head and I’ve never had a concussion. James Mirtle at From The Rink has a great entry just on this angle and whether or not Havlat should have played.

James hits it home on this closing thought:


He’s fine. He’s ready. He’s all right.

Perhaps. But he didn’t look all right, at least to my eyes. I wish the question was asked if Havlat had suffered a concussion and what treatment, exactly, he’s had in the interim. It’s not impossible that he recovered just fine from having his bell rung a few days earlier, but why then does he have to leave the game after taking a routine check early in the game?

Isn’t that cause for concern? Perhaps especially so for a player with Havlat’s extensive injury history?

You bet your ass it’s a cause for concern and the question of whether or not Havlat BS’ed his way into the lineup or the Blackhawks trainers and Quenneville would willfully ignore Havlat’s condition is something that I hope the beat writers will try to find out more about.

As for this series, for all of Brian Campbell’s talk of the Red Wings being a “gutless” team, the ‘Hawks have a lot of soul-searching to do after putting in a putrid performance like that in a game that was set up for them on a platter to take. Two of the best players in the NHL, nevermind just on the Red Wings, the entire league were in the press box for this game as well as one of the top defensive forwards and Chicago comes out with that performance?

Brutal. Simply brutal and a truly gutless performance out of this team that was too caught up in seeking redemption for a guy who ended up wrongly suiting up for the game. I’ll let the guys at Hockee Night wrap this one up for how Chicago “performed” in this crucial Game 4:


Christobal Huet. What a sieve. He probably wound up with sunburn fro the red light. He gave up a lot of goals, and none of them were particularly tough. He was absolutely brutal.

VERSTEEG! When you’re down 4, you don’t skate out of the box and get chippy in open ice. That’s dumbshit hockey, and that isn’t what makes a good team a top team. Oh yeah, calling out guys when you’re down 5? Nice set of balls you grew there, kid.

The Hawks’ passing. They’ve gotten this far by opening up the ice with stretch passing, but the Wings have just run a passing clinic, everything has been tape-to-tape. At times the Wings looked like they were doing some Harlem Globetrotters stuff out on the ice, moving the puck at will.

Things are not looking up for Chicago and this is setting up for a blowout of even more embarrassing fashion for the Blackhawks because if you can’t nut up and strap it on for a game where the other team is ridiculously shorthanded from the get-go… Then what game can you get up for?

05/23/2009

When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong

By now you’ve already seen the Niklas Kronwall hit on Martin Havlat from Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals.

Far be it from me to prevent you from viewing it all over again.

The last time I saw a look on a guys face like that was a couple years ago…

Oddly enough, that’s the last time Brian Campbell ever checked a player. Even stranger still, that hit looks pretty similar to the one Kronwall delivered to Havlat.

I bring this up because in the press conferences today, Brian Campbell had something to say about Niklas Kronwall and his bodycheck:


“I thought [Kronwall] jumped,” Campbell said. “Marty didn’t have the puck, I thought his forearm came up high. I thought it was gutless all around. [Kronwall’s] done it hundreds of times in the league and it seems like nothing ever happens. He could as easily came in and used his shoulder and hit him with his side and it would have been fine. Instead he comes up and explodes with his fists and his forearms and jumps. I just don’t understand it. It’s unacceptable and it’s not like it’s the first time it’s happened with that guy.”

Hundreds of times? Yikes. Hyperbole is a dangerous verbal weapon because it often renders the user stupid.

As for what the Blackhawks plan to do about it, Campbell added this juicy tid-bit.


“These guys gotta pay for it, guys that are taking shots to the head. It’s unacceptable, and it’s not like it’s the first time it’s happened with that guy.”

All right, I get it.

A guy lays a clean hit, and this one certainly was, yet people are going to blow it up into something worse. It just follows suit with everything else that’s gone on this year and allows Mike Milbury to hang on to the one thing he’s ever been right about.

Oh sure, some folks are arguing that it’s interference, others are arguing that it’s charging – some folks even whipped out the rule book thinking that it helps solidify their case that’s turned into an Abraham Zapruder-inspired Internet brouhaha.

Problem now is that Brian Campbell, of all people, has laid down the gauntlet and said that Kronwall is going to pay. This threat would sound more imposing if it came from just about anyone else on the Blackhawks roster. Adam Burish, Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager… Pick one.

Brian Campbell though? What’s he going to do to Kronwall, sweat all over him?

This is when keeping it real goes wrong.

05/05/2009

Don’t Make Me Hate You, Sid

I’ll come out and say it and I don’t give a crap what it makes you think of me or my opinions.

Sidney Crosby is a gift to us all.

I know what you’re thinking now…

“OH SHURE HOCKY JOE! U R A BETMAN SUCKUP!! LOLZ!1!”

Right, sure, whatever.

Like it or not, Sidney Crosby is awesome and the NHL is a million times better off having him, his talent and his presence around than without it.

Is he over-exposed? Maybe to NHL fans, but not to the world that’s for damn sure.

Is he a great player? Fuckin’ A right he is.

He’s phenomenal and his talent is a once-in-a-generation kind of talent and we’re blessed as NHL fans to have three other players in the NHL that are on that same kind of unearthly level of talent (Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Lidstrom).

Are NHL fans pissed that three of those four players are playing in the same series in the second round? Maybe the jerk-off fans that are self-loathers are – but me? I’m tickled. Gary Bettman is tickled too, no doubt, because he gets to see the two prizes he cares about most finally have their “Bird vs. Magic” series.

Never mind that it’s taking place in the second round, that’s irrelevant. What matters is that it’s happening and, as of right now, it’s absolutely electric.

Just like most things in the NHL, sometimes things happen that help amp up the story. Sometimes when superstars collide, the best is brought out of them. Case in point, Game 2 of this series. Hat tricks from both of the superstars (their first hat tricks in the playoffs) including this stirring series of bombs from Alex Ovechkin:

As it goes, as it has always gone, when you’re the home team and your home guy nets a hat trick, the hats come out on to the ice. It’s a tradition that’s been around since the dawn of time (give or take an epoch) and it’s awesome. Flat out, it’s awesome.

Unless you’re on the visiting team.

Enter the man in the white uniform and the black hat, Sidney Crosby.

From the DC Sports Bog:


“People kept throwing hats,” Sidney Crosby said tonight. “I was just asking if he could make an announcement to ask them to stop. I mean, the first wave came and then I think they were all pretty much picked up, and then more started coming. So for us, we just wanted to make sure we kept kind of moving and kept the game going, wanted to try to get back in it. So wasn’t complaining about anything.”

Ah, jeez.

Listen, I get that he’s being the captain of the team. That’s good, that’s fine, that’s the admirable thing to do. He’s also being brutally honest with the press when asked about this.

As a person who has done plenty of sports interviews and gotten nothing but Athlete-speak from them, to get a freaking gold mine of a quote like this is awesome because then jerks like me cite your website, give you more hits and all that fun.


No, they ain’t sippin’ on some sizzurp – that’s straight Haterade.

When your name is Sidney Crosby though… Stuff like this gets a lot more run. Like it or not, Sid’s got the reputation for being a whiner. As a fan of hockey, it sucks more than life itself to see that one of the most marketable guys in the league, the like-it-or-not face of the NHL is labeled a big pansy bitch.

That sucks a lot and it drives me nuts to see Sid continue to do things that feed into this image. I want him to be Captain Cool, I want to see him make people that hate him shut up by delivering every damn time. I want him to be The Terminator and crusher of souls. As an NHL fan I want the biggest name and the league’s icon to be the man.

Simple as that.

In a series that features the two guys that are fighting to be the A #1 icon of the game, some folks might point to this game as the one that separates them for good. They both deliver hat tricks in stunning performances. Ovechkin with his bomb shots and Crosby doing the down and dirty work in front of the net putting home rebounds.

Had the Penguins won this game, Sid would rightfully be getting the praise for throwing a change up at the Capitals and doing things differently. Sure, maybe that quote gets some more run, but at least that can get spun off to make him more of an honest-to-badass villain. Like, say…


“Hey ref, tell these chumps to stop throwing hats – this game is fucking over with because I said so.”

Cutthroat? You better believe it. Cocky? As hell. Bad-ass? Hell fucking yes it is.

Instead, reality deals us a Capitals win with Ovechkin waving his junk at everyone because he’s that damn good. In his case, being a Russian helps add to his allure. The interviews are tougher to do with regular schmoe reporters because his English skills are mostly limited to Athlete-Speak.

The one time he did let loose was in an interview with Maxim Magazine and he was instantly villified for what came out there.

Thanks for nothing mainstream media. Dicks.

So now what’s the fallout from this for Crosby? He unfortunately solidifies a reputation that’s already been made bad enough to handle by a well-paid PR firm.

After all, when you’re playing a rough game like hockey where there’s a delicate balance between being a cocky braggart and cutthroat competitor, being a crying wuss wins you no favor and makes the job of sticking up for your boy even harder.

At least if I was Sid, I’d be happy to have the guys at The Official PensBlog on my side, I’d hate to see how they’d handle having that kind of ammo to use against him. For that alone, I’d hope to never leave Pittsburgh without a Stanley Cup or two if I were him.

What kills me about all this is that I enjoy how Sid plays the game and he makes it so incredibly difficult to love Sidney Crosby the player. Whether it’s the opinion of the other players that he’s a whiner or the consistent cries from fans all over the NHL that he’s a diver on top of all of that… It’s incredibly hard to embrace him as the MAN when there’s a guy doing all of those things that you admire playing against him. It creates an instant divide amongst fans.

You’re either a Sid fan or an Alex fan.

Simple as that.

When you’re put on the spot after a tough game, a tough loss particularly, and you’re getting a thousand different questions about the game and someone mentions the other guy, the other big gun outshining you for a night and you’re frustrated that you couldn’t do more than your own three goals and your answer is to just blurt out that you wanted the officials to make an announcement about the hats being thrown on the ice for the other guy’s hat trick…

The best way for Sid to answer all of this is to flip the script and do it right back and let the fans at The Igloo shower the ice in hats. Then to do it again the next game and not relent.

Sid’s shown us he can wear the Black Hat and be the villain by driving hockey fans nuts with these things like whining and diving, now it’s time to fully embrace the darkside. Be comfortable with being thoroughly hated in places like Philly and Washington and New York.

Score that game-winner in overtime some night and then proclaim afterwards that you knew you’d get it all along. Sid is referred to as “Bing” over at PensBlog, but I’d rather seem him break out something a little more like another cocksure legend:

Is it wrong to want all of our new hockey heroes to be bad-asses? I don’t think so.

Snap out of it already Sid.

Do it.

04/21/2009

Playoff Thermometer

Bend over everyone, it’s time to take the temperature of the playoffs.


The Playoff Doctor will see you now.

I see the Canadiens, Blues and Sharks are already in position. How nice of you to be so helpful to myself and your opponents.

I know that Bruins fans want to think that they’re exorcising playoff demons here, but considering how schizophrenic the Habs were all season long, how awful they played leading up to the playoffs and how beat up they were… Is this really a surprise at all?

Yeah, yeah I know – rivalries, history, magic, aura… All that crap gets brought up and its stupid. None of that has anything to do with how horribly overmatched the Canadiens were going into this series and now that they’re on the brink of being shown the broom there’s nothing incredible nor overwhelming about it.

The Bruins weren’t the underdogs in this battle and they’re certainly not a rag-tag bunch of kids going up against Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson and Ken Dryden Canadiens either.

Wait, what’s that Jack Edwards?

Good lord.


Jack Edwards: Certifiably Insane

If the Bruins struggled at all in this series I would’ve been at a loss for words and then if you twisted my arm I might buy into that nonsense about never getting by the Canadiens ever.

Things change and this year things got a lot better for the Bruins and a lot worse for the Canadiens and its more than evident in this series.

The Bruins will get their first actual test in the next round…unless they face Carolina (trailing New Jersey 2 games to 1) or Philadelphia (trailing Pittsburgh 2-1), then forget it it’s a walk to the Eastern Conference Finals in that case.

If they get either the Rangers or the Penguins in the second round, things get shaky for the B’s since the Rangers (leading Washington 2-1) would have a goalie that can carry them far and steal games and the Penguins have offense to burn and give Tim Thomas fits.

In the Western Conference, I want to say that there’s rhyme or reason for why the Sharks are failing so hard, but I can’t even begin to imagine what the hell their problem is.

Presidents Trophy jinx? Get lost and stop reading my website.

Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau aren’t clutch enough in the playoffs? If you believe that kind of nonsense I’m going to find you and fire you into the sun.

Demotivated team whose boredom carried over into the opening round? Ehh…

That would make sense if they weren’t playing a team they hate in the first round, and let’s face it, San Jose hates Anaheim and there’s no way around that.

You want the truth of the matter? Here it comes:

San Jose went sputtering into the playoffs and then got the worst possible opponent they could draw in Anaheim – a team that was on fire since the trade deadline, a team that didn’t have a favorable schedule to close out the year when it came to making the playoffs.

Yet, here they are and they’re on fire and they’ve got that savvy veteran leadership that the playoffs was meant for.

Oh yeah, and they’ve got a team that plays sick defense. Remember the 2007 team that won the Cup much to everyone’s chagrin? Yeah, they’re just like that team was only this time they’ve got a lot of younger guys up front, a lot of whom came up in the Ducks system and they know it backwards and forwards.

The Niedermayer brothers are still there. Teemu Selanne is still there. Physics egalitarian Chris Pronger is still there. Hell, even Jean-Sebastian Giguere is still there and he looks dashing in a baseball cap while Swiss freak Jonas Hiller backstops the Water Fowl.

They’re not your normal eighth seed – these guys are good and they’re happy staying under the radar. They’re also still douchebags – so they got that going for them.

Should the Ducks move on, and with the way San Jose is playing it seems foolish to think that it won’t, a potential match-up with Detroit (who is busy schooling Columbus on the finer points of how to play hockey) in the second round will go down as the best series in the entire playoffs.

Bank on it.

Then you’ve got the St. Louis Blues…

Let’s face it, I got Andy Murray’s team all sorts of wrong here back in October when I said that they didn’t need to even show up this year because they weren’t going to make the playoffs.

No, really, I did say that.

What I didn’t get wrong though was about Andy Murray himself. Let me cite noted hockey blogger Hockey Joe, author of Gross Misconduct about what he had to say about Andy Murray:


The best part of this team, however, is the head coach Andy Murray. Murray is a smart enough guy and is always able to get the best out of his teams. He did very solid work with the L.A. Kings until things turned horribly southward there and it’s that experience Murray will have to draw on for handling this Blues team.

Such grace in those words – someone should give that guy a pat on the back. Of course, the next phrase after that was:


The Blues will have a spurt or two in them where they’re able to man-up and pull a few surprises out and goaltender Manny Legace, or presumptive backup from Nashville Chris Mason, are more than capable of stealing a couple games throughout the season, but don’t buy what they’re selling. This team is bad.

Damn it all.

I should’ve been wiser to Manny Legace having a meltdown at some point this season and I should’ve stuck to my guns about Murray as a coach. I also should have been smarter about the youth on the Blues roster and respecting what they could bring to the table right away in a situation that would demand they do it sooner than later.

Some how, some way the Blues managed to end up sixth in the Western Conference and their reward for that was Roberto Luongo and the Freaky Swedes with their Bore You Into Submission brand of hockey.

Any other time in my hockey life I’d be openly rooting against Vancouver because they’re like ether on ice.

Not this time.

I’m spiteful.

I’m angry.

I’m vengeful with my words and my middle fingers.

The Blues screwed me out of going five for five on my pre-season prediction and now they’re paying for it.


Hey St. Louis! I got two words for ya!

Suck it.

As for Vancouver, a tune up agains the Blues in what basically boils down to a rough scrimmage is just what they needed. Hell, the Canucks are even getting over on trashing the Blues verbally too:

Embarrassing – glad to have the Canucks on my side in this one.

The Canucks are getting hot and they’re destined for a second round match-up with either Chicago or Calgary (Chicago leads the series 2-1) and that works out just fine since those two teams are going to beat each others brains in for a while, or at least be cheap-shotting pricks:

That sets things up rather nicely, eh?

05/14/2008

Congratulations

Given that both Conference Finals series sit at 3-0 as of this writing with Detroit looking to end Dallas’ season tonight, I’ll offer up a jinx-proof congratulations to both the Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins, who lead the Flyers, a hearty, “Thank you” deep from the bottom of my hockey-loving heart.

I thank them for playing ridiculously good hockey of late. I thank them for showing that yes, indeed, skill can win out over blatant laziness and goonery. I thank them for carrying out my marching orders that neither the Sharks nor the Canadiens could take care of in the previous round.

Most of all, I thank them for giving me the game I love back to me and others like me with a vengeance.

Detroit has been nothing short of a cold-blooded monster of a team, carved out of the mold of the most bad-ass of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator. Pittsburgh has proven to be the most resistant and most opportunistic of teams, capitalizing on every turnover and every mistake offered up by the Philadelphia Flyers – and most notably, Steve Downie. Downie has had two crucial and demoralizing turnovers in the last two games that lead to cinching goals for the Penguins.

Karma is indeed a nasty trollup Mr. Downie and don’t you forget it.

What most bloggers are doing now is taking a look ahead at what the Finals will bring about, however, I’m not completely presumptuous and will save such a thing for when both the Prince of Wales and Clarence Campbell trophies are presented and ignored by team captains.

These Conference Final matchups have provided something interesting amongst the potential double-whitewash. Philly and Dallas writers and fans both have had plenty to say about the officiating through the first two games, but Game 3 in both series silenced even the most ballyhooed complainers. Detroit and Pittsburgh both took care of business so thoroughly that any complaining from then out just rang hollow and very bitter, nevermind completely uneducated.

Every bit of momentum the Stars attempted to seize from Detroit was met swiftly with an answer – no more pointedly than Grossman’s goal in Game 3 that tied the game and got the Stars faithful fired up only to have Pavel Datsyuk score 37 seconds later to quiet the crowd. Pittsburgh has been nastier, jumping out to leads and not letting Philly get comfortable in any way. Philly would rather get ahead, sit back and beat the tar out of you. It’s tough to do that when you can’t get the lead and the injuries suffered by the Philly defense have rendered them tired and toothless. Even Derian Hatcher can’t muster up the strength to hit someone cheaply.

Not yet anyhow – there is still at least one more game to go.

Detroit’s work in Games 2 and 3 was even more pointed given that Johan Franzen, the latest Swedish goal-scoring sensation, was sidelined with something resembling concussion-like symptoms. Franzen single-handedly slapped around the Avalanche and got a taste of some more in Game 1 against Dallas before being benched for recovery. Valteri Filppula is banged up as well and Tomas Holmstrom is showing signs of all the abuse he dishes out/takes in front of the net as he’s clearly a step or two slower than his linemates Datsyuk and Zetterberg. Then again, with linemates like that, who wouldn’t look slow? Come Finals time, you’re looking at, potentially, a fully recharged and rested Red Wings team. My goodness.

Pittsburgh, on the other hand, has only seen the flu sort of take chunks out of the lineup, but not really. Gary Roberts sat out Game 3 and his physical presence wasn’t even necessary to beat Philadelphia. Players like Mike Richards, Scott Hartnell and Daniel Briere have taken plenty of abuse at the hands of guys like Hal Gill and even Evgeni Malkin, and what have they done to fight back?

Turn around and yell at the officials. They’re in your head boys, just play the game.

Nevermind that virtually every beat writer in Philadelphia has been yelling about one-sided officiating since the start of the playoffs, the players appear to have picked up the same poorly cynical attitude. All the complaining led to having the officials set the tone at the start of Game 3, tons of penalties early on on both teams which effectively neutered the rabid Philadelphia crowd. Talk about your slaps in the face – you get what you’ve been asking for but at the price of killing the buzz and emotion of the crowd.

What’s been most exposed about the Flyers though is their youth. A lot of the youth is in action thanks to injuries on the blueline, the rest of it is there because they’re supposed to be ready. The Flyers aren’t an old team and they’ll be back at it again next year, and perhaps even better. Dallas, on the other hand, has looked slow from the get-go and Dallas writers and VS. analysts have used that early on as a crutch; That the Stars aren’t playing like the real Stars because the series with San Jose wore them out.

That’s fine to say that and think that that’s true, but all those guys on the ice will tell you that that’s no excuse and they’re just getting beaten by a better team.

Well maybe Marty Turco wouldn’t say that, but his mental stability in regard to playing Detroit is, at best, extremely fragile given that Turco has managed only two wins in his career against the Wings, both of which came in Dallas. Detroit isn’t going away any time soon in the West and if Turco wants to get over the hill, well, he’d better start winning a few against Detroit – praying you don’t face them in the playoffs can’t work every year.

Let’s hope that Detroit and Pittsburgh can end the warm-up act quickly and we can get to the Main Event because we haven’t had a Cup Finals, potentially, this good in a very long time.

05/06/2008

Round 2: Operation Failure

Filed under: Dallas Stars,NHL playoffs,Philadelphia Flyers — Joe Yerdon @ 3:59 PM

It was bound to happen.

When I first started setting goals for this year’s NHL Playoffs I knew there was no way to keep the happy momentum going along after a rousing success in Round 1.

Heck, I even cut down on the number of goals to be met in Round 2.

Alas, fate and incomprehensible failure on the part of two great and underachieving teams interceded and both the Stars and Flyers have moved on to put the Stanley Cup Finals in jeopardy of being dreadfully boring.

Well, maybe not that bad but certainly not as exciting as it could be.

Last year, we were openly rooting for Buffalo to beat Ottawa and Detroit to beat Anaheim in the Conference Finals because that would’ve presented us with perhaps the most wide open Cup Finals since Gretzky played in Canada. Instead, we got the team that played slow-it-down-clog-it-up crap hockey to beat Buffalo and the Ducks who set the rules of the game back 100 years.

This season, you’ve got two teams that do the same thing, just they come from opposite conferences. The Dallas Stars are more than happy to play at a snail’s pace and make skating anywhere on the ice impossible. Dallas isn’t really there to score, they’re there to keep it a one-goal game.

Literally, if it’s 0-0 going to overtime, Dave Tippett is doing cartwheels in the tunnel after regulation. Of course, that reaction might also be because Marty Turco hasn’t given up a back-breaking goal either. This defense-first style is no accident and a lot of that has to do with Turco.

Before last season, Turco had a bad reputation for getting ripped up in the playoffs and pulling the El Foldo. Enter the Vancouver Canucks and their non-existant offense and you have one cured head-case of a goaltender – even still, Dallas lost but Turco couldn’t be blamed. Go figure.

It was no accident though, Dallas’ defense helped keep an already toothless attack at bay for most of the series and still Dallas’ offense stunk it up. How bad were they? Goals scored by Dallas per game against Vancouver (wins are in bold italics): 4, 2, 1, 1, 1, 2, 2

Obviously, Dave Tippett blamed the defense for the losses since they’ve only managed to get more annoying and tougher on that end of the ice. That means that Turco giving up one or two is hard to come by since teams have to work even harder to get a shot off or get to the net. It also allows their suspect offense to win more games after scoring two or three goals.

Just ask the Sharks.

The Flyers, on the other hand, came into the playoffs with the reputation carrying all the earmarks of the Flyers teams from the 70’s and earning worthy comparisons to that of the Anaheim Ducks…and not the good ones. Over the season, I’ve covered all the issues with the Flyers and their cheap hits ad nauseum, so I’m not about to go bringing that back up. Suffice it to say, the Flyers, already a mostly unlikable team, came into this playoff season with an even worse reputation.

To make matters worse, they knock off the World’s Favorite Hockey Player in Alexander Ovechkin in the first round, much in part due to Martin Biron playing solid in goal as well as to what turned out to be very suspect officiating all series long. Given how it’s been all playoffs, it doesn’t seem as though this was unique to their series.

Up comes Round 2 and they get to deal with the Eastern top seed Montreal Canadiens, aka: Canada’s Last Hope. The last few seasons, we’ve seen Canada’s Last Hope make it into the Cup Finals before bowing out (Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary) and Flyers fans found themselves wrapped in paranoia after Game 1 convinced that the fix was in to have Montreal make it all the way. Nevermind that the officials assisted in getting Philadelphia past Washington, this was a new round with new conspiracies!

I’m convinced, however, there was a plot against the Flyers advancing if for no other reason than it failed miserably. After all, anything the NHL tries to make happen while Herr Bettman is leading the way manages to fall flat on its face. It’s for this reason alone I have this nagging feeling that we’re destined to see a Dallas-Philadelphia Cup Final. After all, you have to bet that the NHL and NBC are praying for arguably the biggest hockey fan market (Detroit) to face off with team with two of the hottest rising stars in the league (Pittsburgh) in the Finals. Detroit and Pittsburgh would provide for some high-octane

I’m also convinced we’re going to be having a healthy dose of deja vu come Saturday May 17th. Remember last season when Ottawa and Buffalo had their Eastern Conference Final overtime game get bumped off of NBC in favor of coverage of the Preakness Stakes? Well guess what…the NHL schedule has again set itself up for conflict, this time with the potential to get the Red Wings and Stars bumped off of NBC in favor of the ponies. The Wings-Stars game on the 17th is scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m. ET. Coverage of the Preakness Stakes will begin at 5:00 p.m. Dallas did just play a four-overtime game with San Jose and virtually every game involving the Stars is a one-goal game. I can’t help but figure this is going to happen again and the NHL will rightfully get slapped around for things being this way.

All that said, the only goal for this round is for Sid the Kid and Evgeni Malkin to get a date with Datsyuk and Zetterberg in the Stanley Cup Finals – it’s now the Dream Matchup for the league and for television. Canada doesn’t have a stake in things this year so they’re happy to have hockey to watch in general.

Anything outside of Pittsburgh and Detroit will be a letdown to some degree and a Dallas-Philly Finals will be extremely disappointing and not nearly as fun to watch. Since Round 2’s goal set was a complete letdown, we’re carrying it over to the Conference Finals in hope that it will be fulfilled for the betterment of hockey.

04/23/2008

Round 1: Mission Accomplished

Filed under: Dark Ages,NHL playoffs — Joe Yerdon @ 5:21 PM

Suffice to say I think we can say that Round 1 was an overwhelming success for not just this blog, but for the NHL in general.

This playoffs has seen the defending champion Ducks get shown the door. This is good because these guys weren’t playing hockey in the first place and if anyone was kicking around the idea of emulating what they do in order to ensure success…forget it.

The Devils get the boot and that too is good because it means that Lamoriello-hockey takes another blow. After all, it was Lou and Lemaire that helped seal the deal for ushering in the Dark Ages of hockey. I’ve cooled in recent years on Lemaire but Lamoriello has shown that even without Jacques Lemaire he continues to run the organization the same cheap and awful way.

The way that shows that they’d rather not be bothered paying out for offensive skill players.

The Sharks bagged the Flames, finally, after seven games and did it all thanks to NHL ’94 legend, Jeremy Roenick. Think about that for a second: Roenick was to video game hockey what Bo Jackson was to Tecmo Super Bowl and all of that happened in the early ’90s with the exception being that Roenick is still playing.

What’s more amusing is reading reactions from people who at one point in time really despised Roenick and now find themselves saying, “Ahh you know what? Get it done J.R.” Incredible.

Also incredible in the process of last night’s game was Mike Keenan ensuring that he’ll have at least one superstar hating his guts next season as he yanked Miikka Kiprusoff after giving up four goals on thirty shots. Curtis Joseph then came in and gave up one more on one of the first shots he faced. Oops.

Oh, by the way, the Flames lost 5-3.

The Bruins bowing out quietly in the seventh game against Montreal, in hindsight, was rather predictable. The Bruins sucked it up enough the playoffs to make a show of things, inspire the locals to a degree (at least to the level where they may have actually drowned out the noise being made by the Canadiens fans that routinely take over the Garden), and even get some long since dormant “fans” to pay attention again.

That said, the Bruins played tough until Montreal scored to make it 1-0. Once the Habs were on the board, Operation “We Feel Good For Making It This Far” was on in full effect. After two periods it was 3-0, and then the Canadiens while up 4-0 score a fifth goal with five seconds left on Tim Thomas to throw a little salt in the wound and an extra kick in the junk.

If the NHL garnered as much attention and hype as Major League Baseball, I have no doubts whatsoever some sort of mythical story line would be tied into a Montreal-Boston matchup and it would be laced with a story that explains why the Bruins can never seem to get the best of the Canadiens.

Hey, why not, it worked for the Red Sox in dealing with the Yankees and made a mint for Dan Shaughnessy who fabricated the entire “curse” story to sell a book. Perhaps they could run with letting Bobby Orr end his career wearing a Blackhawks sweater and the Bruins never recovering since. After all, they haven’t won the Stanley Cup since Orr was on the team and scoring legendary goals.

So there we go, done deal! It’s the Curse of Bobby Orr everyone! Bobby Orr is the guy who shut the lights off in two different Cup Finals against the Edmonton Oilers (1988 and 1990). It was Bobby Orr who told John Muckler to rest Petr Klima up in 1990 and haphazardly put him out on the ice in triple-overtime to score the game winning goal. It was Bobby Orr who injured Cam Neely, not Ulf Samuelsson. It was Bobby Orr who told Harry Sinden to both not pay Raymond Bourque and then not surround him with capable talent so he could stay a Bruin forever and make a run at one more Stanley Cup Final that would ideally not feature the Edmonton Oilers, Wayne Gretzky or Petr Klima.

That said, even the loss of the Capitals to the Flyers can’t totally keep me down and mainly it’s because I have the comforting thought of knowing full-well that the city of Philadelphia will have another gut-wrenching loss in the playoffs set to be delivered to them. It doesn’t matter if it comes at the hands of the Canadiens, Penguins or Rangers – two of those teams the Flyers have a blood feud with – it’s going to be great to see. The Flyers have been on par for class and guts this year with the Anaheim Ducks and that’s no compliment.

In a Flyers fan’s mind, they think they’re going all the way and those sissies from Montreal, those assholes from Pittsburgh and those motherf-ckers from New York sure won’t beat them! No freakin’ way! Excitedly for myself and many others, it will be one of them to get rid of them and send the misery meter up one more notch in Philadelphia.

The only real downside to the Capitals losing is that it prevents us from seeing Sid the Kid and Evgeni Malkin from taking on Ovechkin and Backstrom in the second round. Say what you will, but Bettman had the perfect opportunity to take what he learned under Stern and to put it to use to set up a real dazzler of a matchup.

Much like everything else, however, Bettman fails to put the hit out to guarantee this will happen. Perhaps he was too preoccupied hoping that Detroit would put Dominik Hasek back in the nets to keep the Predators involved in the playoffs. You know, to benefit the game and spread it to non-traditional and new markets (read: to spur on another buyer to pay a ridiculous amount for a team whose fans just remembered where the arena was last week).

That said, Detroit not failing (and looking tough to deal with in the final two games) draw their former blood rival, the Avalanche. Yes, that’s right Woody Paige and Mark Kiszla and Adrian Dater – former blood rival. After all, if this was still the same old thing the Avalanche would be winning some of these matchups with Detroit.

But they’re not. Detroit has put the boots to Colorado the last few years now and the only thing that’s the same about these two teams is the Colorado lineup, thanks to this year’s trading deadline. Peter Forsberg? Adam Foote? Why not go find Adam Deadmarsh and Mike Keane while you’re at it.

The key for Detroit in the series is to make sure that Andreas Lilja and Dominik Hasek don’t find their way into any games. Colorado is a bit of a wild-card at this stage, but they go from dealing with a 0.5 dimensional offensive team in the Wild to a much tougher and lethal offensive team with Detroit. Colorado will need Forsberg in every game they play from here on out and Sakic needs to keep being a hockey deity. The real Jose Theodore also needs to not show up as well. He could’ve beaten Minnesota wearing no pads and I assure you, Detroit will be a bit more intense.

As for San Jose and Dallas, this leads us to our other directive for the second round: Eliminate Dallas. Dallas brings nothing fun to the table at all and the only reason they were being rooted for in the first round was to God’s work to eliminate the cheating Ducks. You’ve done your duty boys, time to pack it in…for the benefit of the game.

To recap, what we want out of the second round:

  1. The elimination of the Philadelphia Flyers
  2. The elimination of the Dallas Stars

I figure we’ve cut down on the teams, I can cut down on my demands. Philly and their goon squad and the Stars and their boredom can take a powder. Either the Rangers or Penguins bring the goods into a Conference Finals matchup, same goes for Detroit and Colorado (although I’d rather not see Peter Forsberg and his flopping ways not go any further).

Remember, this is all about what benefits the game the most and I’m trying my hardest to be objective. Something here is bound to fail – what it will be has yet to happen. Let’s hope that Herr Bettman stays asleep at the wheel and doesn’t make a move for a Dallas vs. Philadelphia Finals.

04/20/2008

Two Needs Settled, Two Left Hanging

Filed under: Anaheim Ducks,Dallas Stars,NHL playoffs — Joe Yerdon @ 11:35 PM

  Never before I have I rooted for the Dallas Stars so hard to just win a game and after watching tonight’s God-awful Game 6 between the Ducks and the Stars, my goodness, I am really sorry that one of these teams had to move on to the next round. Dreadful.
 Someone should pony up the Pepto Bismol for Montreal and San Jose. Boston has decided to wake up and proceeded to hit Les Habitents in the mouth and then proceed to live up to being at least partially French and are laying down and taking it. Losing 5-1 is one thing, sure. Everyone has a bad game – however, Game 6 was the most lifeless performance I’ve seen out of a team that only lost by one goal.
  If the Habs don’t get some shock therapy, there about to get the Julien debt repaid to them for what happened a few seasons ago. You know, back when Boston’s reaction to losing to Montreal in seven games after being up 3 games to 1 was to run their captain and best player out of town and then trade him for magic beans. What would Montreal do if they lose this Game 7? It’s tough to say, but if you thought the Boston media was hard on Sinden and Company then, you ain’t seen nothing Jacques!
  As for the Sharks… yikes. This is what most top teams feared about dealing with Calgary. They’ve got the guy who should be a Hart Trophy candidate in Jarome Iginla and a goalie who is more than capable of making a couple of goals stand up to be too much in Miikka Kiprusoff. Teams have advanced deep in the playoffs on less than a hot goalie and an MVP-like player – San Jose at least gets the advantage of having Game 7 at home. It would be a shame to see a team with as much talent as the Sharks to get bounced this early and it would, again, speak volumes about how differently hockey is played in the Western Conference, and I say that as coyly as possible.
  There’s one other series still going on and they apparently put it on the NBA Playoff schedule thinking it was the Wizards and the 76ers. That said, the folks in Washington, D.C. weren’t expecting the Caps to make the playoffs, nevermind to have home ice, so Wizards games and concerts have helped to spread out the schedule. Philly leads 3-2 and will look to end things at home in the Wachovia Center. This series has seen the officials get influenced very easily by the home crowds, which I suppose could be a coincidence, but I’m not buying it. Calls have been brutally slanted towards the home teams and both home crowds have been especially frantic. Washington cannot allow the Flyers any space and must knock them around. Getting Ovechkin on the scoresheet more often might help too.
  The Flyers have to keep goading Washington into taking really stupid penalties and they’ve been playing the perfect way against the mostly inexperienced Capitals. I said this one would go seven, but I had anticipated home teams holding serve throughout this series. Washington laying an egg at home in one game may turn out to be the killer for them.

04/19/2008

TEH EXCITEMENT!1!1!!

Filed under: Martin Brodeur,NHL playoffs,Sean Avery — Joe Yerdon @ 3:09 PM

Here we are mired in the middle of the first round of the playoffs, and my own view of a beautiful second round is coming together just a little bit here.

To have a beautiful second round and subsequent semis and finals, a few things need/needed to happen:

  1. Elimination of the New Jersey Devils
  2. Elimination of the Boston Bruins
  3. Elimination of the Calgary Flames
  4. Someone dropping a bomb on the arena containing the Stars-Ducks series

The New York Rangers have already achieved the success of Point No. 1 and for that, we thank them profusely. Consider me also highly entertained with Martin Brodeur’s extreme lack of class in losing to the Rangers. I’m entertained because this playoff series has showed what a prima donna Marty is. While I may not condone the actions of Sean Avery all the time, I am greatly entertained by him exposing Brodeur as a cry baby and a pansy.

An apparently fat pansy. To the quote board! First up, Martin Brodeur:

“I just shook everybody’s hand but one.”

Gee, who could that have been? Hey Sean Avery, do you know who he missed?

“Everyone talks about how classy, unclassy I am, and fatso there just forgot to
shake my hand I guess.”

I love it! Give me more, Sean!

“Yeah, you know guys like Clarkson, he’s not much of a player, and really he’s
not that effective when trying to play with me and we know he can’t. I just
tried to keep my head on straight and play through it. It’s more important that
I’ll be playing in the next round and they won’t.”

SICK BURN!

Those quotes were all carefully edited in NBC’s story, apparently either them or the NHL doesn’t like hockey players talking trash. Who needs attention anyhow?! Not the NHL that’s for darn sure! Hokey do-gooder morons.

And talk about your petulant French-Canadians…come on Marty, give up the facade here. I know Mike Milbury tried to bail out Brodeur on NBC’s coverage today, but think about this to put it in perspective:

In 1996, Dino Ciccarelli, then playing for the Detroit Red Wings, made the ultimate statement on what it means to be a sportsman. After Detroit was beaten by the Colorado Avalanche in a series that saw Claude Lemieux lay one of the dirtiest hits in NHL history on Kris Draper during Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals.

It was the final game of the series and Lemieux received a five-minute major and a game misconduct for the hit. He also was hit with a two-game suspension and a $1,000 fine by then NHL disciplinarian and current Ducks GM, Brian Burke. The suspension was the second one earned by Lemieux in the playoffs. He got to sit out of Game 4 against Detroit after being punished for sucker-punching Slava Kozlov in Game 3. Raise your hand if you’re surprised that Brian Burke was responsible for such light-handed work in suspending a goon.

Draper suffered a broken nose, cheekbone and jaw as well as having his teeth broken, damage to the orbital bone around his eye and cuts to his face that needed 30 stitches to close.

During the post-game, after the end-of-series handshake, Ciccarelli, a tough veteran near the end of his career was asked about the hit and said:

“I can’t believe I shook that guy’s friggin’ hand.”

Dino would never get the chance to beat (or beat up) Lemieux as a Red Wing as he left the team at season’s end. It’s a shame because Dino probably would’ve beaten Darren McCarty to the punch the following year, but that’s neither here nor there. Fact is, Marty Brodeur is now a cranky old man as well as a spoiled brat and apparently spends his time running his mouth more often than not. I’m sure he really sent the message home to Avery by not shaking his hand. I hope he enjoys being run in every game against the Rangers next season.

The Montreal Canadiens are busy dicking around and not securing Point No. 2 and the meltdown of goaltender Carey Price in Game 5 was particularly startling. Settle down Beavis and go get ’em in Game 6. After all, the game is in Boston and that’s the Canadiens southern home base. Don’t believe me? Listen to the crowd when the Habs score in Boston.

For all other sports teams in Boston, it’s the self-named City of Champions. However, if you’re the Boston Bruins not only are you dreadful to watch but you play in the subdivision of Boston titled, “City of Apathy” where chumps like these guys live.

No thanks.

As for the Flames needing to flame out of the playoffs, that is for the sole purpose of having San Jose run roughshod through the playoffs. They’re the best team by far, but if the Flames are doing something at all in this series, it’s exposing that soft underbelly of the Sharks. The Flames were able to do this somewhat to Detroit last year and it appears they’re playing the playoff version of a spoiler this year again. The Sharks, however, have an awful habit of doing this to their fans each year – Sharks fans are quite the tortured group. This team managed to get over the thuggish Ducks and win their division and happen to be the fashionable pick to win it all this year.

Of course, the playoffs are a different season unto themselves – rule book and all and the Sharks have had the bad habit of getting hit in the mouth and wilting quickly. They did it against Detroit last year and they did it the year before as well against Edmonton. In both of those series, the Sharks held leads in the series only to have something dramatic occur where they couldn’t get their heads together to overcome.

Against the Oilers it was a Game 3 loss in overtime. Even while still holding a 2-1 series advantage, the Sharks were toast as they went on to lose the following three games. Against Detroit, they were moments away from being up 3-1 in the series when with 33 seconds left, Robert Lang tied it at two. Mathieu Schneider beat them in overtime and the Sharks went down the drain losing the next two games 4-1 in Detroit and being shutout at home 2-0.

The Sharks have been taking body blows this whole series with Calgary. They got up 3-0 and chased Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff in favor of Curtis Joseph. CuJo turned the clock back and shut down the Sharks while the Flames rallied to win the game. The flashbacks started happening, but the Sharks have turned it around and have all the big names getting on the scoresheet. Should they survive this, their second round fate resides in either Dallas or Anaheim unless the Minnesota Wild get their heads out of their rearend. This leads me to the final part…

Dallas vs. Anaheim has been horrendous to watch, mostly thanks to the typical goonery of the Ducks and also thanks all-around inept officiating. Trevor Daley of the Stars had a goal disallowed because, apparently, Niklas Hagman interfered with Jean-Sebastian Giguere. Problem was that Hagman never touched Giguere nor did he stand in his crease. All Hagman did was get mauled by the Ducks defenseman in front of the net and keep Giguere from seeing Daley’s shot from coming in at all.

Somehow, someway Giguere gets these calls. He doesn’t appear to whine to officials as much as Martin Brodeur does but that makes twice this year where he’s gotten such a call, the other time coming in a game against Detroit where the Red Wings thought they had tied the game up late in the third period only to have it disallowed due to another phantom interference call because Tomas Holmstrom was standing in front of Giguere. Fool me once, shame on you – fool me twice…it’s a budding conspiracy.

I’m not a fan of Dallas. At all. That said, it’s better for hockey in general to have the Ducks get a quick exit. Unfortunately, quick at its quickest will be six games. All bets are off if it goes seven and you know damn well it’ll be prison rules hockey in a seventh game and the Ducks play like they’ve escaped from Oz. This is why we need the bomb dropping on the place. Spare the rest of us from one atrocious to watch team from moving on.

God help us all if it’s Anaheim.

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