Archive for May, 2009

Staal vs. Staal vs. tired storylines (and other Conference Finals nuggets)

May 18, 2009

  • The Staal brothers clash being a generic storyline has … become a generic storyline. You’ve got to love the way the Internet deep fries cliches. Lazy throwaway crutches get trotted out and then everyone makes fun of those crutches. When calling something a cliche jumps the shark*, then we’ve officially gone a little bit insane.

That being said, the interesting thing is that Staal vs. Staal might be a more “legitimate” matchup than Ovechkin-Crosby for a simple reason: there’s the fairly solid chance that Jordan will actually be given the task of shutting down his big brother’s line. After all, Staal-Matt CookeTyler Kennedy was the forward combination thrown out against Alex Ovechkin.

Could it be that the mainstream media’s cliched headline act might actually decide the series? My head hurts now.

  • Will it even matter who wins Canes-Penguins?

It’s the opinion of myself (and many others) that the team with the best chance of knocking off the defending champions was the Anaheim Ducks. The Blackhawks are a team with a nice combination for a playoff run: young legs, a couple veterans and key contract year performers. But after Sunday’s game, it’s pretty obvious they’ll need more than a couple lucky bounces to make the Red Wings worry.

The only place the remaining three teams can look to for hope is the Red Wings’ penalty kill. The Ducks’ PP outscored the Wings’ PP despite having less chances. The Blackhawks went 1/1 on Sunday, one of the few bright spots in a game Chicago was fortunate to have tied going into the third period.

  • Many people (rightly) complained that Evgeni Malkin has often been unfairly overlooked in all the Crosby-Ovechkin hoopla, but despite a nice 10-point effort, Geno was rightly overshadowed in the second round.

Could Geno have a big round three? The odds are in his favor: home ice, a nice break between rounds and another Southeast Division opponent. That being said, the Carolina Hurricanes seem to be quite a bit scrappier than their division neighbors.

While the Capitals seemed quite sleepy at home, the Canes fed off their rabid fans (and … Bill Cowher) to take some upset victories. Few were impressed by Washington’s unconvincing win against the Rangers in game 7; we don’t need to tell you about their performance against the Pens. Yet on the opposite end of the spectrum, Carolina shocked the Devils in the last minute in Newark, NJ and then managed to out-hustle the Bruins to an OT win.

  • It’s hard to imagine the Penguins taking a playoff foe lightly.

Just look at last year’s playoffs: they finished their Eastern rivals off in 5 games or less, never taking a game off. This year’s edition has had to battle quite a bit more (about to enter their 14th game of the playoffs, which was all they – amazingly – needed to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals last year), but they are lead by the relentlessness of Sidney Crosby and a nice group of character players.

That being said, it also wouldn’t be outrageous if there is a BIT of letdown after the super-hyped second round matchup.

Of course, the Hurricanes might end up being flat-out better than the Penguins …

  • There’s a simple reason that Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane saw only about 15 minutes of ice time in Game 1: they were awful. Kane, in particular, produced very little beyond turnovers.

Perhaps this comes from missing most of their games, but my impression is that the Hawks’ dynamic duo tends to feed off of advantageous matchups at home. Don’t be surprised if they struggle in Game 2 and then “magically” find their fire** back in the Windy City.

But please don’t make this just about experience. The Red Wings have Nicklas Lidstrom, Brian Rafalski, Johan Franzen and a soul crushingly deep group of quality players to torment any team young, old, hairy or whatever.

It’s fun to make something “the factor” in a playoff series, but sometimes one team just grossly out-classes another.

* – I actually prefer using “Jump the Cheeseburger,” an ode to the seminal Canadian TV comedy “Trailer Park Boys” but feel the reference will be too obscure. Sadly.

** “Find the fire” = “Get a more favorable matchup.”

Playoff Pet Peeves

May 15, 2009

1. “He must be injured or out of shape.”

Am I the only hockey fan who’s tired of Lazy Announcer Crutch #4,056: assuming that a player is struggling because of a mysterious injury or unable to bounce back from the fatigue of a longer season? The most recent example is Mike Green. That’s not to say he wasn’t playing hurt, but it’s just so tired to assume that is what is happening.

Could it be that a young player simply isn’t used to playing in the playoffs? Maybe they are on a slump because all that open regular season ice has been strangled away by better defense, familiarity and higher stakes (more shot blocking, stricter matchups, better competition since you don’t get any more easy games against Tampa-like teams).

While the usual “list of previously undisclosed injuries” is always an interesting read, let’s give the opposition’s shut down forwards, top D and coaches a little credit, OK?

2. Diving (and complaining about diving)

It’s hard to say what’s worse: players acting like they were run over by a Buick from a light tap of a stick or the people who constantly bitch about flopping. I’m all for people making Crosby diving jokes, as long as they’re funny. But after watching Alex Ovechkin flop with equal vigor, let’s leave that out of next year’s round of “Ovechkin= totally better” columns, mmmkay?

2b. Excessive penalty bitching

Man, that Caps-Pens series really tried my patience after a while. To some (not all by any means) Washington fans, the refs beat the Capitals, not the Penguins. Even though the Penguins played better team D, blocked more shots, took more shots, enjoyed superior puck possession and actually showed up to Game 7.

Earl Sleek’s (relative) stoicism toward penalties as a Ducks fan showed me a lot. Whiny, losing teams let penalties derail their focus; winning teams persevere.

Want a compelling case of corrupt officiating? Watch the NBA.

3. Marc Andre Fleury handling the puck

We anoint thee “Bizarro Hextall” as you are both jolly while Hextall was grumpy and a train wreck playing the puck while Hextall was an artiste.

You still have the mouth of Gary Busey, though.

4. No more Anaheim Calling, Hockey Blog Adventure or Storming the Crease

Thanks again, everyone. Your contributions made a crazy thought turn into a reason to check CLS a few times a day. The door’s always open.

5. A nearly inevitable Red Wings repeat

Shit.

I’m a SOOTHSAYER! (drools)

May 15, 2009

It’s not often that I predict something correctly. Even something benign like, “I’m going to take a shower in 15 minutes.” But believe it or not, I called the Scott Walker OT series winner in Twitter form. Sort of. Here’s the full stream:

WALKER did it! My God I blindly predicted something correctly! First time EVER!

@Forechecker Tim Thomas is fun to watch. Still think that contract is going to haunt Boston long term, though.

Whoops did I jinx the Canes? Suddenly they fact that they’ve played three more games this playoffs is starting to sink in. They look tired.

The Bruins just got away with a too many men on the ice. Don Cherry just rolled in his grave. Oh wait, he’s alive.

Have a weird feeling the Canes are going to take this one.

Imagine if Scott Walker scored the OT S(eries)WG?

Bruins fans: “We want it.” Boy, those Massers sure love Faith No More. (Jesus that’s an out-dated joke).

Watching Boston – Carolina on a delay, but still: did Aaron Ward’s goal saving sweep remind anyone else of Willie Mitchell vs. Dallas in 07?

Sacrificing the Body

May 15, 2009

The mini-blogs have gone quite nicely this post-season and the Anaheim-Detroit blog between Anaheim Calling and Joe might have been the best (not to take anything away from the sterling work of Vancity Canuck, Cornelius and Rob).

Once known as IAMJoe on the BoC (and other blog comment threads), Joe’s decided to branch out and start his own NHL-centric blog. He also came up with a fantastic name for the blog: Sacrifice the Body. No word on whether the title will leave Satanists disappointed 🙂

ANYWAY, we’re sad to see Joe go (and the other great bloggers whose teams were eliminated) but we look forward to following all his stuff at StB (look at that, you’ve already been acronym-ized). Make sure you do the same, good readers.

Congrats Joe! Let us know if you have any questions and e-mail us when you have something particularly noteworthy on your blog. That also goes for all our contributors, as well as any other bloggers lurking out there.

The Final Countdown

May 13, 2009

Not much to say about Game 7 of Penguins-Capitals that hasn’t been said yet. I’ll (unfortunately) be watching the game on a two to three hour delay so obviously there’s no sense starting a liveblog tradition tonight. Here’s a big collection of links about the game that will start in less than an hour (and stop many hearts).

Where should the Sedins cycle in 2009-10?

May 11, 2009

July isn’t that far off into the future, really. Every now and then, we’ll take a look at some of the more interesting free agent situations.

Since we named this crazy little blog after the Sedin twins, it only makes sense to start with them. Now that the Canucks are out of the playoffs, let’s ask: where will those whacky gingers land?

***

How much are the Sedin twins worth? From what I’ve read, it sounds like it will take about $13 million to wrap up those weird looking twingers. James Mirtle provided a fantastic rundown detailing the fact that they might just in fact be worth that much cash (and cap space). With that in mind, let’s take a look at the teams that should strongly consider wrapping those freakish little Swedes up:

Vancouver
Salary Cap 2009-10: (without Sedins) about $31.3 million; (with Sedins) about $44.3 million

Naturally, the team that drafts you usually gets the benefit of the doubt in re-signing a player. The Canucks have improved this season as players like Alex Burrows and Ryan Kesler raise their games, but they still would be extremely weak offensively if they let their two point-per-game players go via free agency. If the Canucks are willing to tie their future to the Sedin twins, then they have the money to do it.

Twin-o-meter:

Almost too obvious, like a reference to the movie “Twins.”

New York Islanders
The Islanders cap (with or without the Sedins) is a bit hard to figure because I still haven’t quite wrapped my mind around how rookie contracts will show up on the cap. As you may or may not already know, incentive clauses will be reflected differently on next year’s cap numbers.

If Hockey Buzz’s NHLSCAP page is correct, the Islanders currently have about $32.5 million committed to players going into the 2009-10 season. The good news is that money constitutes nearly enough roster spots to fill a whole team. The bad news is that those roster spots would be filled mostly be awful hockey players.

John Tavares (please tell me the Islanders draft him, they’ve made enough mistakes already … just take the big name Canadian forward and move on) will mean a cap hit between $1 million and $4 million. In a worst case scenario, adding the Sedins and Tavares would bring the cap to $50 million.

This would give the Islanders four nice offensive players (Tavares – Sedin twins – Kyle Okposo) to construct to respectable forward lines. This could actually be a good move if Rick Dipietro can bounce back from knee surgery, but there’s just so many “ifs” that it would be hard to imagine the Sedin twins going to Long Island.

Twin-o-meter:

Could be awesome, but could also be a train wreck … like the Olsen twins

Nashville Predators
Pre-Sedin Cap: $33 million; With Sedins: $46 million

While it wasn’t the first match that came to my head, it almost makes sense. After all, isn’t cycling the puck hockey’s answer to the line dance? (cricket chirps … dodges a tomato)

The Predators could conceivably bring the Sedins aboard and pair them up (perhaps) with tail-between-his-legs Alex Radulov to give the team what could be the franchise’s greatest line ever. The Sedins seem like they would fit in nicely with the Predators’ worker bee mentality.

You’d have to think they could make the playoffs with a core of Sedins-Radulov(?)-Jason ArnottShea WeberPekka RinneJ.P. Dumont, right?

Twin-o-meter:

Could be brilliant, but might upset mainstream audiences like “Dead Ringers.”

The Southern Ontario Team-to-be-Named-Laters
Pre-Sedins Cap: $32.1 million, with Sedins: $45.1 million

If the Coyotes DO get moved, you know Mr. Blackberry will want to bring some top-end talent to a roster that was gutted during the trade deadline. There are some really nice steals and semi-steals on this roster: Shane Doan is a nice power forward who could fit in well with the Sedins at a low price ($4.55 million cap hit) and Kyle Turris/Peter Mueller both have sub-$3 million contracts that could end up being steals in the right situation.

Who knows: the South Hamilton ex-Yotes could end up adding Jay Bouwmeester and the Sedins for $20 million and make a lot of people nervous.

Twin-o-meter:

Could be ugly, like the Phoenix Coyotes situation and the movie “Stuck on You.”

Jussi Jokinen’s slash on Zdeno Chara: shades of ‘Dumb and Dumber’

May 11, 2009

I haven’t been able to find a good clip of Jussi Jokinen‘s slash on Zdeno Chara (so this might be updated, please e-mail me if you found it already), but there was something oddly comical about Chara’s animated reaction to the slash. Then I realized it was eerily similar to a scene in the artistic masterpiece “Dumb & Dumber.”

You may recall a scene where Harry (Jeff Daniels) viciously canes Lloyd (Jim Carrey) in the back of the knee. If you need to refresh your memory, start at about the 6:40 mark of this video:

Pretty good match, right?

Update: Denson from Bangin’ Panger sent the clip of the timmmbbbbeeeer slash

Zdeno Chara: a seven foot goat on skates? (and other playoff thoughts)

May 9, 2009

Zdeno Chara isn’t a hockey player, he’s a big angry tree who can slap a puck through my soul. Please don’t take this as a concentrated attack on the big Z.

But let me take you back to a fuzzy age for many of you young ones. You see, there was a time when this team named the Ottawa Senators roamed the earth as near-dominant hockey dinosaurs. While it never really worked out for that team, they were just loaded with talent.

During this period, the Senators chose Wade Redden over Chara and allowed the Big Z to sign a huge contract with the Boston Bruins. It’s hard to believe this really happened, especially since Redden’s play dropped horrifyingly enough to make him become an absolute whipping boy … for the New York Rangers.

Most would say Chara was the obvious choice for the Senators, but it’s more than a bit off putting that he might once again be a scapegoat for a team’s playoff disappointments.

I say “might” because it hasn’t been possible for me to watch much of Chara’s performances. We all know that plus/minus and offensive scoring do not necessarily define a defenseman, but without knowing his Corsi rating and his totals for goals for/against during the playoffs , those stats still tell you a somewhat disturbing story:

If you don’t feel like clicking on that image, Chara’s been held scoreless against Carolina with a -5 rating in the last three games (+1 in Boston’s dominating game 1 victory). Overall in the playoffs he has 1 goal and 1 assist. He’s also been on the ice for some dramatic goals, most noticeably Jussi Jokinen‘s OT GWG in Game 3.

Surely, the blame cannot fall only on Chara’s gigantic shoulders. That being said, don’t be surprised if the Norris Trophy-level D gets a big bowl of blame barring a near-miraculous turnaround.

  • Maybe the Carolina Hurricanes have found the perfect formula: only make the playoffs when you can make a dramatic run.
  • Whether you like the Alex Ovechkin knee-to-knee hit or not, there is NO WAY the NHL is going to have the cajones to suspend him. Even if the Penguins make it to the Conference Finals, truly threatening for the Cup is unthinkable without Sergei Gonchar.

From a “headaches for the league” standpoint, they are probably hoping that the Penguins advance without Gonchar. If not, the league’s in a lose-lose situation: if AO does get suspended, the Caps were screwed; if the Penguins get bounced then Yinzers will claim that we live in a godless society where the (talent) rich are above the law.

Let’s hope this controversy doesn’t mar what has been a true dream series for the NHL.

  • Even though Jonas Hiller had a superhuman performance against the Sharks, I keep finding myself expecting J.S. Giguere to play the role of Ghost of Playoff Goalies Past against the Red Wings. Weird, huh?
  • Finally, make sure to keep your eye on the sidebars.

The Ducks-Red Wings and Penguins-Capitals blogs have been especially busy lately and we also have plenty of goodness going on in the Hurricanes-Bruins and Canucks-Blackhawks blogs. I’ll try to keep a better eye on them as the series go deeper, but don’t let their great (no, make that superior) work slip under the radar.

Looking back at the BoC trip (part 1): Sleek is a beast; I’m just a monster

May 8, 2009
Cartoon by: Spade from Victorhell of BoC commenting fame. Oh, also, it’s O’Brien 🙂

California. What could I say about this place after spending one week there when the Red Hot Chili Peppers have covered every base already? Perhaps my naked inexperience is exactly why it’s taken me so long to write more than a superficial mini-post of my trip.

Each one of these posts will be heavily tangential and full of wild assumptions. Hopefully you will find these at least slightly interesting.

Meeting Earl Sleek

One thing I’ll never forget (even if the forgiveness came instantly) is my sister absolutely losing her mind when she found out that I’d be staying with people I MET ON THE INTERNET.

Because OBVIOUSLY I would end up hacked to pieces in some SoCal dumpster by this HOMICIDAL MANIAC who … blogs about hockey and draws adorable cartoons. (Naturally)

She had seen an episode of “Oprah” that featured online sexual predators. Keep in mind, growing up, my sister is the LAST person I’d expect to freak out about anything … especially based on the workings of big momma ‘O.’ This prompted a freak out from my wildly unsupportive brother and my nun-like mother. Typically, I can coast quite comfortably under the radar with these people, but never underestimate the power of technophobia.

If nothing else, my family should have worried for Earl Sleek.

Not sure how much personal, identifiable information is appropriate here, so I’ll keep it to a healthy minimum. Sleek showed up to (very nicely) pick me up from an Amtrak station and had the “Katamari Damacy” soundtrack playing in his car.

It was a little bit awkward at first, but my God, the guy owns a soundtrack to an obscure video game I LOVED in high school. Talk about an amazing ice breaker. Otherwise, we would have probably been a little less relaxed. Here’s a simulated thought process, thwarted thankfully by the dual wonders of nostalgia and Japanese pop music:

Me: Weird, I’ve never seen this guy before. He’s tall and seems way too normal to be a blogger.

Sleek: Jesus, this guy’s fucking fat.

Luckily, we were able to avoid such thoughts and chat about a game where you roll up human beings and enjoy visuals clearly targeting the college stoner/Autistic crowd. We eventually watched hockey and segued into “Mr. Show” (a program I had never seen before that night, which blew my mind).

My original plan for the trip was to spend time with both Sleek and Fear the Fin‘s Mr. Plank, but things fell through with Plank. (Or Plank thought, “Wow … this guy is a serious douche bag. Time for Plan B.”) Unfortunately for Sleek, I ended up crashing at his place for pretty much a full week. This meant heavy exposure to my flippant style of pontificating and unquenchable need to make a joke out of everything.

Certainly, if I were to plan the trip again, I would have done things quite differently. Regardless of whether or not I annoyed the piss out of Sleek*, he was incredibly gracious to allow me to stay at his spectacular bachelor pad. Thanks for everything, Sleek.

And keep rocking that Katamari.

* – I totally annoyed the piss out of him.

Black-buried?

May 6, 2009

After courting the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators, Jim Balsillie might find that the third (attempted NHL franchise move) will be the charm. If he can get through “Scary” Gary Bettman‘s hidden traps.

(Bettman only approves of owners who hate Canada and don’t have money, I guess.)

Let me say this: I’m no expert when it comes to the true vitality of the hockey market in Phoenix and certainly not an expert on how a team could make its way to Southern Ontario despite the pleas of the Toronto Maple Leafs (monopoly) and Buffalo Sabres (who mop up the Leafs’ table scraps). So if you want insider info, look at the blogs on the sidebar.

With that out of the way, let’s look at this a bit more:

Point 1: Mr. Blackberry will not be stopped

There are shades of “MLB owners black balling Mark Cuban” in this situation. When you consider all the criminal/shady/snake oil salesmen owners the NHL has approved, it’s pretty stunning that the league has a problem with the guy behind one of the most successful companies around. (Seriously, try to make it through a workday in DC without spotting a Blackberry)

He’s the freaking Terminator here, guys. Let him have his damn team.

Point 2: Another team in Canada = good

It might not show up in the American TV ratings, but it’s good for the sport for people to see hockey games celebrated as true events. Even if the league never seems to appreciate its Canadian fans (always looking for greener, American pastures) the fact of the matter is that having another Canadian team would mean more money in the big picture.

With what would be a deep-pocketed market, Mirtle points out that cash-poor teams will grumble about seeing the cap floor rise … but wouldn’t that be a boon for teams that will be bumping up against the top-end of cap? Yeah, something tells me that the league might care a little bit more about the Penguins, Red Wings and Rangers getting a bit more cap space than the Kings having a $32 million budget instead of $30 million.

(Seriously, great point by Mirtle but am I the only person who finds the idea a bit backwards?)

Point 3: A history of silence

Again, I’m no expert about the Coyotes place in the Arizona sports landscape.

But when your gravy days are centered around Keith Tkachuk wearing those Phoenix “Peyotes” jerseys and the short period of time before Nik Khabibulin folded his arms and held out for my money, you might not have the most successful hockey franchise out there.

There’s always some karma problems with moving a franchise (see: Sonics, Seattle), but it hurts much more when the new team continues the same losing tradition. The Coyotes are in a brutal division, in a brutal economic climate and … they play in the desert.

Maybe this just wasn’t meant to be.

Point 4: Still, don’t forget a few hearts would be broken

Odin Mercer from Five for Howling is a great guy and I feel bad for him. Even despite living in Texas and New Jersey all my life, the thought of the Pittsburgh Penguins moving to Kansas City was very hard for me to stomach. Without Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Mario Lemieux, the Penguins could be in the same place as the Coyotes.

People (especially Canadians) tend to forget that even the least traditional hockey markets still have plenty of diehard fans.

***

Ultimately, it’s unclear if the Coyotes will move to Southern Ontario. For all we know, they could stay put or become the Hamilton Ex-Yotes. There also could be a Plan C: moving the Coyotes to Kansas City or Las Vegas.

It would be wrong if the NHL had to baby bird the Coyotes just to avoid some embarrassment. But from the looks of things right now, there isn’t one easy answer.