Archive for the ‘Eric Staal’ Category

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.”

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The "Staal" trophy

March 18, 2009

It never sits well with me when an MVP gets dominated in the playoffs. This was a frequent occurrence in the NBA, when Michael Jordan would reign his vengeance and fuuuuuuurious anger on Charles Barkley and Karl Malone for stealing trophies from him.

The same thing happened in the NFL, when Peyton Manning meekly exited the post-season in the first round after receiving the MVP trophy. In my mind, the list of MVPs should read like a yearbook for what happened in a given sport each year. Last year wasn’t the year of Manning. It was the year of great offensive and defensive lines and the out of left field greatness of Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald.

But, hey, calm down traditionalists. Stop spitting. The NHL wouldn’t have to alter the Hart trophy to make things right.

Instead, the league could change the Pearson trophy slightly, having a “player’s MVP” chosen by his peers for a full season. Instead of just judging a player by regular season numbers, both the season and the playoffs could be taken into consideration.

That would be a lot more interesting, as the Pearson is largely redundant right now. Just think of all the interesting debates. Would a player who lit the playoffs on fire win even despite a so-so regular season? Could a guy have a year so singular and special that he could with the Pearson and miss the playoffs? Perhaps we could award Pavel Datsyuk with something a little more meaningful than a Selke (not that there is anything wrong with a Selke)?

The idea came to me long ago, when Eric Staal lead the Hurricanes to a Stanley Cup championship but received no individual trophies. Staal was one of the best players during the 2003-04 regular season, hitting 100 points for what might be the only time in his NHL career. Despite slowing down in the SCF, Staal lead all playoff scorers with 28 points. Yet, Jaromir Jagr and Joe Thornton were the best players in the regular season and Rod Brindamour and Chris Pronger overshadowed him in the Conn Smythe voting. So you wouldn’t know just how great Staal’s year was just from looking at individual awards.

But if the Pearson trophy was considered the award for the best full year, Staal would have been tough to beat. And us bloggers, MSM members and hockey talking heads would have yet another thing to debate tirelessly.

And, really, isn’t that what is most valuable?