Archive for April, 2009

Round 2: Who’s under pressure?

April 30, 2009

With the second round set to begin in Vancouver tonight, the stakes are rising for the remaining 8 teams. Still, expectations and future outlooks play a huge role in how a team’s playoff run is evaluated. Taking that into account, which teams have the most to lose (and gain)? Are there any teams “playing with house money”? Let’s take a look.

1. Boston vs. 6. Carolina

Both teams defied expectations this season. For the Bruins, that came early, as Boston went from being a nice little 8th seed last year to a squad good enough to make people wonder if they could go toe-to-toe with San Jose and Detroit. In Carolina, the Hurricanes went through most of the regular season looking like their typical selves (limping through stretches, remaining thoroughly mediocre … the ultimate bubble team) and then all of a sudden became arguably the hottest team in the NHL.

Hockey fans will probably remember the Canes stunning two goals in 1:20 to shock the Devils for years to come. At this point, Carolina is the perfect foil for a number one seed: they’re playing their best hockey of the year and just seem to have everything falling in place. If they lose, no sweat, really. Right?

One thing that stands out for Boston is that they have some tough salary cap decisions to make. David Krejci and Phil Kessel are RFAs this summer. Marc Savard only has one year left on his contract and will certainly command a bigger cap hit than his current $5 million.

The B’s are a nice story, but the startling depth that made them such a juggernaut won’t last forever.

Bruins have way, way WAY more to lose than the Hurricanes.

2. Detroit vs. 8. Anaheim

The second of two “behemoth vs. Cinderella” match-ups, although the Ducks have more to lose than the Hurricanes (and the Red Wings are probably yawning at the pressure of being heavy favorites).

Anaheim will have a lot of questions to answer this off-season, particularly when it comes to Scott Niedermayer. Could this be the last year of the Norris brothers?

Still, the Ducks can’t sweat it too much when they look at their young forward trifecta: Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan make up quite the nice group of sub-25 threats. With Getzlaf and Perry wrapped up for a long time at a low cap hit, Anaheim isn’t crazy to wonder if the sky is the limit.

And if they get bounced, it will at least make Jonas Hiller easier to re-sign.

It’s difficult, however, to muster much fervor for the Red Wings. Yes, it would be a letdown if Detroit blows this series but they won the Cup last year. They have a mountain of talent wrapped up for below market value prices. If they screw up this year, they’ll be a top-3 seed for the next decade anyway.

Ugh.

Detroit has more to lose than Anaheim, but they both have bright futures.

2. Washington vs. 4. Pittsburgh

No doubt about it, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin have a lot to lose in this series. They are the two faces of the league and will suffer from harsh Photoshops, mouth-breathers in comments and a predictable “I TOLD YOU SO!!!!!11” mentality. Evgeni Malkin can obviously swoop in and show that perhaps he should be the Hart trophy winner instead of Ovechkin.

Hell, even Alex Semin has plenty to prove after his “Kane over Crosby” comments from earlier this year.

If you had to choose, the slight edge in pressure might go to the Capitals. They are the higher seed with home ice advantage. After barely beating the Rangers in a 7-game series – and getting, honestly, severely out-played at times in that decisive game – the Capitals need to show that they’re not just a weak willed collection of gorgeously talented Europeans.

The Penguins have “been there” before, putting up a cute little fight against the Red Wings in the SCF last year. In some ways, that means that they have quite a bit to lose, as they don’t have the excuse of inexperience.

The Capitals and Penguins face extreme pressure to deliver on all the media hype, with a slight bit more on the Caps’ shoulders. Either way, someone’s getting flamed in a message board before this one is done.

3. Vancouver vs. 4. Chicago

The Canucks are an odd story this season. On one hand, you have disappointments like Mats Sundin and the hot button issue of re-signing the Sedin twins. There’s also the oddness of Roberto Luongo being the first goalie to be a team captain since the railroad industry was thriving.

That being said, there’s the “aha!” season of Alex Burrows and the assorted flavors of hard scrabble two-way forwards this team provides. Will Kyle Wellwood make you pay for that fat joke? Shall Ryan Kesler show us why he’s a Selke finalist? Lots of sneaky good guys on this team.

One story I promise to beat to the ground is that the Chicago Blackhawks shouldn’t be so loosey goosey this year. Everyone seems to think that the BLACKHAWKS ARE A TEAM OF THE FUTURE. While that would be great, it might not be so easy.

Martin Havlat and Nik Bulin are all but gone, barring some crazy hypnosis-based contract signings. As I wrote before, the team might have a devil of a time re-signing its talented trio of Kane-Toews-Keith between now and the 2010 summer.

Yes, the Hawks are still in their cliched “losing to learn how to win” season, but they might want to think about skipping that process altogether. Things might get a lot tougher for this team in the future.

The Canucks are under more pressure, but the Blackhawks are under more pressure than you’d think.

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Pronger: kryptonite for the Super Wings?

April 30, 2009

Great stuff from Joe at the Detroit-Anaheim blog: taking a look at everyone’s favorite gap-toothed, elbow-throwing defenseman’s effect on the Red Wings. Make sure to check it out.

Round two mini-blogs should be less … mini

April 29, 2009

Before I begin my trek back to Dallas (bah!) today, it seems prudent to mention that things are shaping up for our round two satellite blogs. Rather than introduce/re-introduce everyone who’s coming on, we’ll mention them when they write their first post.

Amazingly, things are already started at three of the four series blogs:

Cornelius Hardenbergh of Hockey Blog Adventure is back for more Boston Bruins fun, which is greatness because his Boston-Montreal contributions were exactly what we envisioned for this idea in the first place.

Here’s his post; here’s the Boston-Carolina blog link.

Joe echoes a common CLS sentiment (“Fuck you Versus!”) in his initial second round post for the Red Wings – Ducks series. He’s another return contributor who did a great job last round considering the fact that it was a challenge to catch games in the Columbus-Detroit series.

Here’s his post; here’s the Detroit-Anaheim blog link.

Sha Sha of Vancity Canuck and The Hockey Bay is back as well, giving a taste of the Canucks-Hawks TV schedule as well as posting the Youtube video of a fight that was entertaining, memorable AND completely relevant to the series.

Here’s the post; here’s the Vancouver-Chicago blog link.

While we haven’t posted anything yet for Washington-Pittsburgh, we expect there to be PLENTY to write about for Gary Bettman’s ultimate wet dream.

Stay tuned, and update your bookmarks/RSS readers everyone. The second round looks like it will be a doozy.

How to steal a series or Gary Bettman is ruining his trousers right now

April 29, 2009

Martin Brodeur might be thinking that life is a fraud after tonight.

It seemed like Brian Rolston‘s crazy slap shot goal was going to allow the Eastern Conference to fall in 1-2-3-4 order until Tim Gleason‘s sprawling play kept the puck in the zone for the Hurricanes, which allowed Joni Pitkanen to set up Jussi Jokinen (of all fucking people) for a stunning game tying goal.

Then, out of nowhere, Eric Staal scored the series clinching goal with a little more than 30 seconds left in the game. Just a stunning series of events that ended an incredible (and odd) season for the New Jersey Devils.

With that, Gary Bettman‘s devil horns are probably ejaculating at the thought of a Ovechkin-Crosby clash (yes, we know Malkin exists but we know how this series will be marketed). The Capitals-Penguins series surely will bring out a trolling onslaught like we’ve never seen before.

Get your helmets, kids. Shit’s about to get real.

Business shall pick up

April 28, 2009

Welp, my trip is nearly done and by the time I get on a plane tomorrow night, the first round will be done too.

Haven’t sorted out what exactly I’m going to write about the BoC trip (and which blog is most appropriate) but I’m sure I’ll stumble on something at some point. Maybe.

But the intention of this message is to run a little smelling salt under our collective noses. Now that the playoffs will soon dissolve into a much more digestible four series, it will make it easier for me to help the satellite blogs flourish. Current contributors and contributors of the future should keep an eye on their e-mail accounts, as the spam canister should open soon.

If you’d like to contribute, hit me up on the ‘ol e-mail: jamestobrien@hotmail.com.

Staying classless in San Diego

April 27, 2009

So I decided to take a little mini-trip to San Diego so I could give Earl Sleek a break from my constant over-joking and various other foibles. It’s about 6 pm right now and the question is: where shalt I drink? If (somehow) you live in San Diego and want to share a few brewskis with me, drop me a line at jamestobrien@hotmail.com. I’d recommend doing so soon.

In Praise (but also plenty of ridicule) of NHL on the Fly

April 25, 2009

Mr. Plank and I were chatting about the greatness (but also the humorous flaws) of “NHL on the Fly” and it dawned on me that the show needs a love letter. Yet since I cloak myself in a veil of cowardly sarcasm, that love letter will make fun of the show a lot.

For those of you (sad, CHEAP, PATTTTTHEEEETIC) people who aren’t aware of NotF, it is basically the NHL’s answer to the formerly great ESPN show “NFL Primetime.” Actually, scratch that, it’s even better: it’s NFL Primetime if it was on an absurd 10-hour loop.

If you want to know what happened in the NHL each night and you hate the Internet (good for you), then NHL on the Fly will impregnate your heart.

ANYWAY, the most fun part might be making fun of the “broom closet” production values of the show. And what better way to do that then by hurling superficial insults at the show’s hosts? I thought you’d never ask!

Dan Pollard
Not much to say about Dan “DP” Pollard so it’s natural to go to a double penetration joke. I’m cheap.

Brian Duff
Blandly likable, a lot like Dan Pollard. Unfortunately the only goofy pun nickname you could give him is a Simpsons beer reference, not something sexual. Therefore I like Dan Pollard better. This is not a Democracy.

Craig Button
FINALLY, someone I can make fun of. Craig “cute as a” Button is “the Italian guy” on NHL on the Fly. (Note: he might not actually be Italian.)
It’s fun to imagine him when an intern gets him a coffee without his patented “just sugah.”
Button: “You call this coffee? You fucking call this coffee?”
C’mon you know that has to happen at least once a month.

Gary Green
Now we make it to the friendly old man with that could-be-creepy twinkle in his eyes. Green seems like the “cool uncle” who would take his 10-year old nephew to “Porky’s” yet the kid’s parents just can’t seem to object to their son’s too early exposure to showered breasts. Seriously, try to imagine maintaining anger at double G. Not going to happen, Ace.
There are a lot of odd associations that come with Green. For some reason he sort of reminds me of the “Jump to Conclusions Mat” guy from “Office Space.”
OK I’m a bit fucked up.

Larry Murphy
When you look at Larry Murphy, it’s kind of hard to believe he was a hockey player (and a really good one too). Isn’t it?
I get the feeling that Larry will join Bill Clement in the “younger generations will be stunned that they were players” zone. Here’s some Hall of Fame members:

  • Pat Summerall
  • Phil Jackson(even though he’s really fucking tall)
  • John Davidson
  • Lenny Wilkens
  • Larry Brown

There are probably a lot more guys that give you the “no shit, they played?” feeling but I’m drawing a blank.


Dave Reid
Reid – and all the NHL on the Fly guys, really – seems to really know what he’s talking about. If I met him, I would probably drop my sarcastic, difficult shtick in favor of trembling fear.
That is just how I react to a crew cut.

Bill Berg
Berg’s photo is a tough find. It’s really a shame, too, because his “confused” expression is quite a treat. It’s not that he’s bad, either, it just that it seems like he’s perma-perplexed. And that’s one of the things that makes him awesome.

Bill Clement
It’s pretty stunning that Clement is the guy who got shit canned (or at least left) from the Versus studio show being that he’s the only guy I’d willingly watch on TV.
I used to hate him, but couldn’t put my finger on the reason. Then I realized that he looks EXACTLY like my high school Biology teacher.* As my memory of high school fades more with each season, I like Clement more.
Plus, the mustache.

The Detroit Freud Wings is more like it. Ha ha Psychology humor. I suck.

Carrie Milbank
OK, well, she’s not on NHL on the Fly but you deserve a reward for reading this far. God bless you.

* – My high school Biology teacher wouldn’t allow his children to watch TV. Look, TV rots your brain … but if you don’t watch it, you will be smarter than your peers and they will HATE you for it.

Olli Jokinen: terrible?

April 24, 2009

When the Calgary Flames traded for Olli Jokinen, most people assumed that the Flames made the biggest splash of all the deadline teams. But if you asked quite a few Flames fans/bloggers, it was a splash alright – of hydrochloric acid to the face of their DREAMS.

His first career playoff run has been quite two-faced, indeed.

On one hand, his stats look pretty damn nice. Jokinen has 2 goals and 3 assists for 5 points in four games, with a +3 and a whopping 17 shots on goal. When judging the odd-looking Finn based on those stats, he’s had an amazing playoff run.

Yet, Jokinen’s also had some forehead-slapping moments that call back all the talk about him being a cancer for the Phoenix Coyotes. There Olli was with that blank look in his eyes, unaware that he greatly increased his team’s chances for a Too Many Men on the Ice penalty. It just seems like he has a knack for taking a backbreaking penalty or making a stomach-churning turnover when he’s in his own zone.

It seems that Jokinen is a two-headed monster. One head wears goat horns; the other head is uhhh He-man’s head or something.

What’s your take? Is Jokinen a one-dimensional player, ultimately more of a liability than anything else? Is Olli a power forward and the center Jarome Iginla‘s needed all this time?

The answer may lie somewhere in between, but that’s just no fun.

Olli Jokinen: awesome or awful?(online surveys)

Thoughts from Day 1 of the BoC adventure

April 23, 2009
  • All signs point to Earl Sleek being a bad ass.
  • As it turns out, a part of me hates Martin Brodeur. Or I at least generated a lot of sick joy in watching his stick slamming tantrum (see video). Perhaps I ride a train fueled by envy?
  • Speaking of “Envy” I also realized after watching the astoundingly hilarious “Mr. Show” (fourteen years late) that at some point – though the exact time is unclear – a switch turned and I started to pretty much hate Jack Black. For those of you who like sliding scales, Brodeur is close to “neutral/dislike” while Black is pushing the needle to “tediously useless.” You’d think I would use a numbered scale, but alas …

Canucks lower the broom on the Blues

April 22, 2009

Even Pavel Bure must be impressed.

While I was putting together plans for my trip to witness the Battle of California (plane leaves Wednesday!), the Canucks completed the first sweep in Vancouver’s franchise history after beating the St. Louis Blues in overtime.

Our Blues-Canucks correspondents were all over it.

For Sha Sha from Vancity Canuck and The Hockey Bay, we’d love for you to stay aboard for the probable “Vancouver vs. ?” blog. We’d hate to say goodbye to Laura though, so how about this: drop us a line if you’d still be interested in contributing to Cycle like the Sedins’ playoff coverage. (jamestobrien@hotmail.com) Even if you want to take a hockey vacation, we’d love to have you back for more Blues stuff next year!

Not sure what the plan is (in person recaps? James in Cali posts? Drunken tearful poetry?) but I’ll probably post something about my California trip. It might be a cross-post or I might write weird stuff here. You’re just going to have to wait (with baited breath, naturally).

Again, keep your eyes on those side bars for mini-blog activity as well. There’s a lot of fun stuff going on in our satellite blogs.

Keep enjoying the playoff hockey, kids.