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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Boston Bruins: Hockey Marketing Done Right

Props to the Boston Bruins marketing department.  They may very well be the best in all of sports.  They keep the one liners coming with their print ads (as seen above), continuing with their "Bruins Hockey Rules" branding!

If you haven't seen their television spots, you need to.  Below is a fine example.  Check out the related videos to see the rest!

Bravo Boston!

2010 NHL Playoff Matchups... and Predictions II

Overall we went 6-2, with a perfect bracket in the West in the First Round. However, apologies are in order to Bruins fans.  We did not give the B's their due.  Montreal, well... we did predict that you would win one game.

Hockey Plumber said: "In the East is nightmare match up central"

It was truly nightmarish for the higher seeds. All three division winners lost.  The most spectacular flame out was Washington's collapse after taking a 3-1 series lead over Montreal.

#4 Pittsburgh Penguins  vs. #8 Montreal Canadiens

Round One:
Not many can say that they expected this matchup in the Conference Semi-finals.  Essentially the Canadiens were #16 overall seed facing the #1 overall seed.  Enter Jaroslav Halak.  The Canadiens stunned the Caps in seven games, completing a historic comeback.  Montreal moves past Ovechkin.  Next up? Crosby. Thank you hockey gods! No?

The Penguins dispatched a feisty, persevering Ottawa squad in six games.  Sidney Crosby was magnificent scoring 14 points in the first five games.  Malkin and Pittsburgh's other forwards were solid and did their part.  However, Marc-Andre Fleury was downright shaky at times and will need to be better going forward.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Capital Collapse: Montreal Overcomes 3-1 Series Deficit To Win

If you didn't believe it before, you have to believe it now: Scoring a ton of goals in the regular season, doesn't mean anything in the playoffs.

This is Ovechkin's team.  He will be blamed, but this is not his failure.  He contributed plenty.

Rewind to last season's Final.  Detroit concentrated their defensive effort on Crosby.  It worked on Crosby's line.  Problem was, Malkin and Talbot took advantage and became heroic figures.  Where were Ovechkin's Malkin and Talbot?  No where to be found.

Even though we are hesitant to criticize him, Backstrom disappeared when Ovie went cold. However, Alexander Semin was completely useless for the entire series.  Unlike the captain, Semin is a "soft" player.  Without space and time, he doesn't battle.  He gets shoved around and was a complete non-factor for seven straight games. Simply put: He is a soccer player.  Forty goals in the regular season.  Not a single goal in the post-season. 

Mike Green?  Interchange his name with Semin and you have his performance summed up as well.

What can you blame on Ovechkin?  Adding fuel to the flame.  Yes.  Halak was an alien being in net after the Habs went into the 1-3 hole.

Alex the Gr8 saw Halak's hand shake again after Game 7 when Ovechkin had to offer congratulations.

Montreal moves on.  Their reward is to face the defending champions.  Will Halak continue the show?  Who knows.  What we do know is that it is tee time for the Caps.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

2010 NHL Playoffs: Round One ZigTeking

While watching the first of two Game 7's on consecutive nights, we began to reflect on some of the most memorable moments of Round One.  The image that kept cropping up was this play by none other than the Reebok pitchman, Sid the Kid.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Just Who Is Shaking Now? Jaroslav Halak Is Masterful, Forces Game 7

No word from Alex Ovechkin regarding his observations of Halak's hand when squeezing the water bottle during Game 6, but we are going to guess that there will be no comments from the Capitals after Halak's amazing performance.

The Habs netminder made fifty-three saves, many of them spectacular.  The Capitals dominated the zone play all night long, but Halak was simply magnificent, and was so deep in to the psyche of the Washington skaters that they were missing empty nets by the end of the third period.

Halak won this game.  Halak has pushed the Capitals into a do or die situation, with all of the pressure not on the backs of the Washington skaters.

You have to like the Caps chances of finally eliminating the Canadiens at home, but Ovechkin's "shaking" comments cold really come back to haunt them in the worst way possible Wednesday night.

* Top Photo: Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Five Teams That Have Much To Look Forward To (Part 4 of 5)

Los Angeles Kings

The Kings had all intentions of making the playoffs this season. Which they did.  However, they surpassed expectations by staying in contention for the division title for most of the season, and being the beneficiary of some outstanding play by their young players.

Like the Coyotes, the Kings are a competitive team today, but also have a fantastic stock of prospects in the system just waiting for their opportunity.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Visting Goaltender Chant: Honestly?

Watching the series clinching Game 6 on Versus between the Penguins and Senators, a curious background sound began reverberating inside the arena:

"Fleuuuuuury, Fleuuuuuury, Fleuuuuuury..."

The chant began just inside of two minutes in to the first period when the score was zero-zero, what?!?

This is no attempt to chastise the Ottawa fans.  In fact, when their Senators were eliminated in OT, they stood and cheered both the home team's efforts, and the team that defeated them.  Very classy.

"The Chant" can be heard in every NHL arena, but often times it is ill timed, and even downright ridiculous.

It is assumed that chanting the opponent's goalie's name in a drawn out droning manner is intended to unnerve, or intimidate.  Is it effective? Highly doubtful.  Should it ever be considered cool to do?  Again doubtful.

However, if you are a spectator that is so inclined to participate in such an event, please realize that there are times when it makes sense, and others when it makes the chanter look, well, uninformed.


1. It is a scoreless tie!
2. Shortly after your own goalie has given up a goal (or more than a few as was the case tonight in Ottawa).
3. Your team is losing! (yes we have been on hand for that more than a few times).


1. Your team punches in a back-breaker... late in the game... against a rival team.
2. Said goalie has talked some trash against your team (ala Patrick Roy, Ron Hextall).
3. Pretty much no other time.

In short, we don't ever really think it necessary. Yet, if in the context of some healthy playoff hate, go for it.  Just don't do it at the wrong time!

It's Not Easy Being (Mike) Green

Not everyone supports the idea of Mike Green of the Washington Capitals being a finalist for the Norris Trophy.  Delaware County Daily Times beat writer Anthony J. SanFilippo may be chief among them.
It's a bad day to be a hockey writer.

We all look pretty bad today. I mean REALLY bad today. We all look like we don't know the first thing we're talking about when it comes to the sport of hockey.

How else can anyone explain Washington Defenseman Mike Green being a finalist for the Norris Trophy as the sport's best defenseman...?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

2010 NHL Playoffs: First Round Observations and Prediction Updates

Capitals vs. Canadiens
Hockey Plumber Prediction: Capitals in five

Halak and the Habs worked a Game One strategy to perfection.  They shut down Ovi, not even allowing him a shot, and shockingly won the opener.  Since then, Washington proved that they have just too many weapons for Montreal to contain.  Backstrom's hat trick in Game Two highlighted a massive comeback victory for the Caps, that led Alex the Gr8 to question Halak's nerve afterward.  Everyone seemingly chipped in for a blowout win in Game Three in Montreal, which chased Halak from the Habs net and it is now up to Carey Price to work a miracle here on out.

Prediction Update: Still legit. Caps in five.

Monday, April 19, 2010

AO's Halak Assessment: Being a Good Captain, or Poor Sport?

After a profound Game Two comeback in which the Capitals overcame a 4-1 deficit to beat Montreal 6-5 in OT, Washington captain Alex Ovechkin told reporters that he saw Habs goaltender Jaroslav Halak 'shaking' after a goal was scored by the Caps Eric Fehr.
 "I watched the replay when Fehr scored the goal and his arm was shaking when he drank water," Ovechkin said of Halak after he allowed Eric Fehr to score on a breakaway in the first period of Game 2.

When informed of Ovi's comment, Halak refused to reply, choosing not to engage the Caps leader off the ice.

So is Ovechkin's revelation just the duty of a good captain, in an attempt to take advantage of any psychological edge he can give to his team, or is it just a tad bit on the unsportsmanlike side that may come back to haunt him and his teammates by providing the Habs with a little added motivation for Game 3?

We will find out at least part of that answer tonight.  Game On!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Five Teams That Have Much To Look Forward To (Part 3 of 5)

Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers were not expected to finish at the bottom of the league
, but injuries and some internal strife conspired against them this season.

The good news is that the Oilers prospect cupboard is anything but bare.  The list of high level prospects below will also receive another boost, as Edmonton will add either Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin with the first overall selection at 
the 2010 Draft in June!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Atlanta Thrashers Make Moves: Anderson Out. Dudley and Waddell Up

This morning it was reported in Atlanta:
The Thrashers named Don Waddell president, promoted Rick Dudley to general manager and dismissed its coaching staff Wednesday, the AJC has learned. They are three significant moves aimed at changing the direction of a franchise that has made the playoffs just once in its 10-season history.
 Long-time whipping post, Don Waddell has been the only GM the Thrashers have known. There have been magnifying cries for his removal since he was forced to deal Marian Hossa in 2008.  Yet it was coach John Anderson and his entire staff, that ultimately paid the price for the Thrashers failures. 

Some Atlanta fans will rejoice in the fact that Waddell has been removed from the day-to-day operations of the general managers role, and to some degree they should be happy.  Rick Dudley is a fine talent evaluator and very capable overall.  However, if those same fans expect "significant moves" that will actually change "the direction of a franchise" as the AJC put it, they will find only disappointment... again, and in short order.

Criticize Don Waddell all you like, but it wasn't his body of work that has led this franchise astray.  Who is to blame? Look no further than the Atlanta Spirit, the parent company of the Thrashers, the NBA's Hawks and Philips Arena. 

Search far and wide, and we challenge you to find a more apathetic ownership group than the Atlanta Spirit.  They are comprised of a handful of bickering, wanna-be NBA owners, who are saddled with a hockey team that they treat with little more than disdain.

Former Atlanta Spirit President & CEO Bernie Mullin resigned in 2008. He called his resignation a "mutual decision between him and the Hawks-Thrashers owners." At the time Mullin stated: "I believe the owners want to get more intimately involved in the running of the business on an everyday basis. And obviously that impacts the role I performed, and therefore it makes more sense for me to move on."

Bernie Mullin had been very active in the day to day operations of the Thrashers, and very vocal. It was also widely known that he and the ownership group did not see eye to eye, particularly when it had to do with the hockey team.

It wasn't until after Mullin's departure that Marian Hossa declared his unwillingness to re-sign with the club, necessitating a trade.  Later, it would be the franchises biggest star, Ilya Kovachuk, who would turn down the opportunity to become the highest paid player in the NHL. 

Why? Because of Don Waddell? No.  Because of John Anderson? No.  Because of the viability and direction of the ownership group in Atlanta.

Waddell worked under duress for most of his years, in the midst of a symbiotic cycle of hell: Players who didn't want to play there, empty seats, pathetic local television coverage and marketing, etc...  Sadly, Rick Dudley will fall victim to the disdain of the fans too.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

...And the First Overall Selection of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft Belongs To...

The Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers have never had the first overall selection.  The odds were in their favor, as they had nearly a 50% chance to land the pick.  No one will know if Taylor Hall of Tyler Seguin will become the first pick until the draft in June.

The rest of the top five fell exactly as the odds would have indicated.

2. Boston Bruins
3. Florida Panthers
4. Columbus Blue Jackets
5. New York Islanders

TSN interviewed both Taylor and Tyler, the leading candidates to be selected first.  One interesting tidbit: It was mentioned that Taylor Hall wears number 4 in honor of  Bobby Orr.   He now has a 50/50 shot of being a Bruin courtesy of the Phil Kessel trade.

Sheldon Souray Wants Out of Edmonton: No Problem. Right Pat?

Is it us, or did Sheldon Souray just make Edmonton's task of trading him that much harder, during a press conference in which he stated that he didn't "want to make management's job any harder"?

Souray is unhappy about how the team has addressed, or not addressed, his most injury and resulting complications and cited how he has been essentially, pressured into playing hurt, since he joined the team a few seasons ago.

If you watch his recent press conference, you will hear him speak on how things have happend "behind closed doors" that we (the media and fans), can only speculate about.  He praised the fans and city, insinuating that his problem is only with the teams' leadership.  Painting himself a victim, through and through, he alluded again to how his hand injury and subsequent infection, coupled with management's disinterest in his pain, has been the most trying "two months of his life."

Sure having an infected, broken, right hand is unfortunate, and even scary for a professional athlete, but the two words that come to mind immediately while watching his presser: "drama" and "queen".

With all apologies to your boo-boo Sheldon, Theo Fleury had to deal with sexual abuse.  Mario Lemieux had cancer.  Bryan Berard lost his eye!  We are sorry if Pat Quinn didn't offer to wipe for you, but spare us all.  If you want out of your deal, and out of town, make your request known... quietly.

Pat Quinn did address how he feels about it, but again, sorry Sheldon, you did just make it harder for the Oilers to honor your request.

As big as the market for overpaid, under performing, offensive-minded defenseman that are a liability in the defensive zone is... add to all that, the bonus feature of feeling under pampered and willing to share those sentiments with the public!  Wow!  Teams will be lining up for that!

Monday, April 12, 2010

" old mother dies... "

As reported, "The Tampa Bay Lightning have relieved General Manager Brian Lawton and Head Coach Rick Tocchet of their duties, effective today, new owner Jeff Vinik announced Monday morning."

"Now that the 2009-10 Tampa Bay Lightning season has concluded, we have decided to replace Brian and Rick," Vinik said in making the announcement. "Our hockey operations department needs a fresh start in order to help us fulfill our goal of being a world-class organization. I'd like to thank both Brian and Rick for their dedication and service to the Lightning.
"Our search for a Chief Executive Officer is well underway and we are in the process of interviewing candidates. After the new CEO is hired, he will hire our new General Manager in time to prepare for the draft and free agency periods."
A welcome change, we are sure, for Lightning fans to see their franchise being handled properly.  Jeff Vinik certainly has grasped the concept of letting business people handle the business and allowing hockey people to handle the hockey!

2010 NHL Playoff Matchups... and Predictions

It took all 82 regular season games to determine not only the playoff seeding, but also the participants.  Sorry New York Rangers fans.  

It truly is a tale of two conferences. In the East is nightmare match up central:

#1 Washington Capitals vs. #8 Montreal Canadiens
The Caps have to feeling at least a bit unlucky.  Montreal is one of the very few teams that does not have a losing record against Washington, as they split the season series. The task of facing Jaroslav Halak is also not a welcome one for Ovechkin and Co., as he proved he can literally steal games against world-class talent in the Olympics.

Nevertheless an upset here would be monumental. The only match up worse than the Habs, would have been Ottawa.  Therefore, Commissioner Bettman and NBC will not be the only ones hoping that the Senators don't best Pittsburgh in round one!

Hockey Plumber Prediction: Capitals in five

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Power Rankings

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The Caps finish on top.  Chicago makes a comeback.  The Rangers climb quickly and the Blue Jackets stink it up!

1. (2) Washington Capitals
Rest players? Yes. Coast to the finish? No way!  The Caps have won five straight and will look to continue that momentum into the playoffs.  Just last night, Ovi moved into the lead for the Art Ross and the Ricard.  To some there is still something to play for.

2. (10) Chicago Blackhawks  
After floundering for a month the Hawks have stormed back to take the top seed in the West. There is one game left to go, but Chicago has control of it's own destiny. Should Chicago win over Detroit in regulation, they avoid having to face them in round one, and increase the likelihood that San Jose win have to.

3. (1) Detroit Red Wings 
Detroit lost a pair over the last weekend, but bounced back with back to back victories over Columbus.  Once in serious danger of missing the playoffs altogether, the Wings have a chance to finish as high as fifth, but no lower than seventh in the West.

4. (3) Phoenix Coyotes 
After a short skid, the Coyotes have won three in a row and have clinched home ice in round one of the post-season.  Also during the streak, Captain Shane Doan snapped a long goal drought than spanned nearly one million games! ...well, almost that many.

5. (6) San Jose Sharks 
The Sharks have won three of four in April and still have a shot at the top spot in the West.  They need to win their final game and get a little help from Detroit.  Joe Thornton is back and scored in a win over Vancouver on Thursday.

Boston Bruins Shorties!

The Bruins may be playing without their best player.  They may be fighting for their playoff lives.  However, today, this same Boston team accomplishing something truly remarkable.

At the end of the first period in their final regular season home game against Carolina, Matt Hunwick was assessed with a two minute penalty for hooking. No goal was scored in the final eighteen seconds of the first, therefore the penalty would carry over into the second period.

It was in the second period portion of the penalty kill that the Bruins faithful would witness something amazing.  Thirty-two seconds into the second, the Bruins' Daniel Paille scored a shorthanded goal.  Forty-nine seconds later, Blake Wheeler scored Boston's second short handed goal.  Then fifteen seconds later, Steve Begin scored the Bruins' third short handed goal on the same penalty kill!

The short handed trio of goals on the same PK was a NHL record.  The Bruins closed out the game with an empty netter with one minute remaining.  Boston won a game, set a new NHL record and assured their place in the 2010 post-season all in one afternoon.

Matt Hunwick has 32 PIMs on the season. He surely has never had a better two minutes in the penalty box in his entire hockey career.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Retiring Pittsburgh's Mellon Arena. Crosby Scores His What-ieth Goal?

The Pittsburgh Penguins began saying their farewells to Mellon Arena, the old barn that has been their home since the inception of the franchise in 1967.

In a pregame ceremony, legendary broadcaster Mike Lange and his former booth partner, Paul Steigerwald, introduced the finest collection of Pittsburgh hockey graybeards that the team could summon for the occasion.

On hand were Jack Riley and Red Sullivan, the Penguins' first GM and coach. The first Penguin to score a goal in the Arena, Andy Bathgate. One of the greatest line combos in Penguins history, the "Century Line", Jean Pronovost, Syl Apps and Lowell MacDonald.  Cup winners and current broadcasters, Phil Bourque and Bob Errey.  The First 50 goal scorer and well known golfer, Pierre Larouche.  A former Alyssa Milano conquest: Robbie Brown. Recent fan favorite and Chuck Norris-esque cult hero, Gary Roberts.  Hall of Famers Bryan Trottier Craig Patrick, Larry Murphy and Paul Coffey. For the grand finale: Penguins owner, the franchise's greatest player, and god of all that is Pittsburgh hockey, number 66, Mario Lemieux!

After the introductions, the current Penguins team joined the legends at center ice for the mother of all team pictures.

Those same, current Penguins, also had one, final regular season game to play against the New York Islanders.  Although the score remained close for a while, the outcome was never seriously in doubt.  Captain Sidney Crosby played like a man on a mission all night, on his way to becoming the third youngest player to reach 500 career points, behind only... you guessed it, Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky.

At the 5:26 mark of the second period, Crosby was credited with a goal.  It was his, aforementioned 500th career point, but also his 50th goal of the season.  The goal would have made him the Penguins' first 50-goal scorer since Jaromir Jagr in 2000-01, the first  50-goal scorer of this season, and the first time that he had reached the plateau in his career.

Media outlets began reporting Crosby's 50th goal immediately... but, alas! Upon further review, the puck was redirected into the net by none other than that unseemly villain, that despicable, glory hounding, goal leech: Billy Guerin's ass! The puck had deflected off of Guerin before finding it's way past Marty Biron for Guerin's 19th of the season...not Sid's 50th.

If that weren't enough, late in the third period, Bill Guerin's stick got into the act, and slammed his 20th goal, the Penguins' 7th of the night, into the net; in what will go down in history as the last regular season goal ever scored at Mellon Arena.

For Pittsburgh and their fans, the night was a smashing success.  Now that same group hopes that it's final post-season game is just as joy filled.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Five Teams That Have Much To Look Forward To (Part 2 of 5)

New York Rangers

"Start spreadin' the news"... help is on the way for the city that doesn't... score.   The Rangers have some major league offensive talent in the system that could make any Rangers fan forget about how much money Sather invested in Drury, Redden and Rozsival!  Yes, they are that good! 

Consider that the Rangers tragically lost Alexei Cherepanov, possibly their top prospect, to a shocking in-game collapse in 2008; and their list of up and coming talent is even more impressive.

Derek Stepan, C - #51 overall 2008 Draft. An excellent playmaker, Stepan had more assists than games played this past season at Wisconsin. He was the captain of the gold medal winning U.S. WJC team and was the tourney's leading scorer.

Chris Kreider, LW/RW-
#19 overall 2009 Draft. Highly coveted for his skating ability, Kreider has size and hands to go with his speed.  Another member of the gold medal winning U.S. WJC team.  He has enjoyed goal scoring success in his freshman year at Boston College.  May turn out to be the perfect complement to Stepan forming a deadly duo in the near future.

Evgeny Grachev, LW - #75 overall 2008 Draft. A power forward, with good hands, excellent puck protection skills, and is responsible defensively. Was the OHL's rookie of the year in his only season in Brampton.  Has not shot the lights out in the AHL, but power forwards generally do take longer to find their game.

Goodbye "Walt": Keith Tkachuk To Retire

At the conclusion on this season, the game will lose an all-time great in Keith Tkachuk.

Tonight, the Boston native, Winnipeg Jet, and long-time St. Louis Blue, announced that he will retire at season's end.

"It's been a tough year with my health, so it's definitely the right decision to step away after this season," he said. "It's always hard. I played a lot of years and cherish every moment."
Tkachuk began his hockey career at Malden Catholic High School in Massachusetts. He played at Boston University, was a member of the gold medal winning U.S. World Cup team, and a four time U.S. Olympian. He was drafted 19th overall in1990 by the Winnipeg Jets, was an original Phoenix Coyote when the franchise moved in 1996, and later played nine seasons in St. Louis.

Keith Tkachuk was a gifted scorer and a mean spirited, punishing hitter, even in international competition! (Just ask Adam Foote, Eric Lindros and allegedly, some Olympic hotel rooms.)

He should be a lock for the Hall based on his membership in both the 500 goal and 1,000 point clubs.  Additionally, in the '96-'97 season, his 52 goals made him the first american-born player to lead the NHL in goals.

Eddie Olczyk summed him up well by saying:
"He was the prototypical power forward. He could score. He could hit. He wasn't afraid to run you into the ditch. He was a great pro. He's one of the greatest American-born players to play the game."
We wholeheartedly agree!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Five Teams That Have Much To Look Forward To (Part 1 of 5)

Phoenix Coyotes

It's almost scary that the team with the most talent waiting in the wings, is a franchise that has proved to be very formidable as currently constructed. Phoenix clearly values hockey bloodlines, witnessed by the selections of Viktor Tikhonov, listed below, the namesake of his legendary grandfather; a fourth generation Hextall, Brett; yet another Staal brother, Jared; and Vladimir Ruzicka, who's father of the same name, was a Stanley Cup and Olympic Gold Medal winner. 

Add  the aforementioned, the top prospects listed below, to a well balanced group of 20-somethings, including Keith Yandle, Petteri Nokelainen, Martin Hanzal, Wojtek Wolski, and superstar goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, not to mention a great veteran core (Doan, Jovo, etc...), and this team has an exciting future ahead of it.    

Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D - #6 overall 2009 Draft. By all accounts Larsson is an elite puck mover and skater with a great overall skill set.

Kyle Turris, C - #3 overall 2007 Draft. Turris has had a fine season in San Antonio scoring more than twenty goals and gaining valuable professional seasoning and adding some grit to his game.

Mikkel Boedker, RW- #8 overall 2008 Draft.  Another swift skating, skilled forward.  He has earned call ups to the Coyotes on a number of occasions this season.

Maxim Goncharov, D - #123 overall 2007 Draft. Highly valued, skilled, puck mover, who plays bigger than his size might indicate.

Viktor Tikhonov, C/RW - #28 overall 2008 Draft.  Aggressive forward with a big frame and good hands.  Struggle a bit in North America, but exploded after being loaned to KHL.

Brett MacLean, LW - #32 overall 2007 Draft. Good size and gifted goal scorer.  Led OHL in goals his last season in Oshawa, AHL All-Star in his first pro season and keeps improving.

* Other notable prospects:
David Schlemko, D 
Chris Summers, D
Jared Staal, RW
Chris Brown, LW

As recently as this pre-season, the Coyotes franchise seemed doomed in every possible way.  Now, just seven months later, Phoenix is promoting playoff ticket packages, and their famed, albeit borrowed, playoff "whiteout."

Regardless of the future location of the team: Phoenix, Winnipeg, Kansas City or a second team in Atlanta (kidding), the on-ice product should be excellent for many years to come!

Monday, April 5, 2010

NY Post, Chris Pronger, CSNPhilly: All the Same Story?

Agree with him or not, Larry Brooks of the New York Post sure got our attention.  Neatly packaged in a story regarding his conversation with Glen Sather, in which the Rangers' GM told Brooks that his team was just one Oren Koules away from acquiring Steven Stamkos from Tampa, was a not-so subtle pot shot at the Flyers and Chris Pronger.
There is something foul in Philadelphia far beyond the goaltending fiasco that has become the focal point of the NHL's most disappointing team.

We're not there on a day-to-day basis, so we can't claim first-hand knowledge, but when two league GMs were asked what they perceived to be the problem, neither hesitated.

"Pronger," each said, referring to Chris Pronger, the defenseman who has a reputation for splitting locker rooms as well as heads.
 At first glance, one may read this and say: "Yes Larry, you are NOT there every day and neither are those other team's GMs!"

However, do you need to be there to understand that Pronger is a divisive force in the locker room?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Friday Power Rankings

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Once left for dead, Detroit takes over the top spot. Buffalo, Nashville and Ottawa climb.  Flyers continue to fall.

1. (6) Detroit Red Wings 

The Wings are winning.  Seven straight in fact, and ten of their last eleven. They are scoring goals in bunches and playing their puck possession  game at the highest level.

2. (1) Washington Capitals
With little left to prove, the Caps are coasting.  Yet, even in a three game skid, they managed a pair of points! It is tough to get a real read on the team at the moment, but they are far ahead of the rest of the pack still.

3. (2) Phoenix Coyotes 
Losers in four of five, Phoenix still has a division title and a higher seed to play for.  Their offense has gone to sleep in the last week.  Maybe the ultra hot Lee Stempniak can do the waking. 

4. (9) Buffalo Sabres 
The Sabres have won seven of their last nine. Ryan Miller hasn't missed a beat since the middle of March and is receiving some offensive support.  They have moved ahead of the stagnating Atlantic leaders for the number two seed in the East.

5. (10) Nashville Predators
The Predators have won nine of their last dozen.  In the three games that they lost during that span, Nashville tallied just one goal.  Rinne has been outstanding this entire season, but he can't score the goals. When the Preds score three, it's almost an automatic win.

The Skinny On the Cup Contenders

The Favorites:

Pittsburgh Penguins

Why they will win:
The Penguins are the defending champions and have an experienced, yet youthful core, that has been to the Cup Final two consecutive years.  They have Crosby and Malkin.  Marc-Andre Fleury is a “money” goaltender. Fantastic penalty kill unit.

Why they will not:
A third consecutive Final appearances is too much to ask in the cap era.  They lost Hal Gill and Rob Scuderi, who were their shut down pair of blueliners. Malkin has been a bit “off” all season. Their power play is suspect at best.

Teams they would prefer to play:
  Philadelphia, Buffalo, Montreal. The Penguins own Philly, seem to have all the answers against Miller for some reason and play very well against the Habs.

Teams they would like to avoid:  New Jersey, Washington. They have not had a single win against either team in the regular season, but have a very good history against the Caps in the playoffs.

Detroit Red Wings

Why they will win: The Wings are finally healthy and are peaking at the right time of year.  Their injury problems may prove to be a blessing in disguise as some key vets have saved some wear and tear from the regular season. Jimmy Howard has been a smashing success in goal.  Exceptional special teams. Can dominate in the face off circle. Maybe the best coach in the business.

Why they will not:
Howard has never faced playoff competition.  Detroit has also been to the Final two consecutive years and are a bit older as a team… they may tire in a third Cup run.  They will miss the top flight and clutch scoring of Marian Hossa, Jiri Hudler and Mikael Samuelsson.

Teams they would prefer to play: San Jose, Vancouver, Nashville.  The Wings have dominated these three teams all season.

Teams they would like to avoid: Chicago.  The Hawks are the only team in contention that they have had a losing record against.

Washington Capitals

Why they will win: Alex Ovechkin and their super charged offense can outscore anyone.  Offensive depth is massive; even if you nullify their stars, the Caps have secondary scoring galore. Jose Theodore has performed better than expected.  They are better defensively than last season.  The power play is so good it should be considered unfair.

Why they will not: No matter the statistics, they have defensive liabilities and questions still abound in net.  Up front, they have turnover machines in Ovi, Semin, etc…which could cost them dearly. Penalty kill is one of the league's worst.

Teams they would prefer to play: Atlanta, Philadelphia, Buffalo, The Caps can do no wrong against the Thrashers and seem to have the Flyers and Sabres number this season.

Teams they would like to avoid:
New Jersey, Ottawa, Montreal. They have done poorly against the Devils and Sens, and surprisingly split with the Habs this season.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Patrick Roy Passes Wrath On to Offspring

Patrick Jacques Roy, a 4-time Cup winner and record 3-time Conn Smythe playoff MVP, is arguably the greatest goaltender in NHL history.

Roy was also a crazy sonofabitch.  He refused to skate on the blue lines of the ice, wouldn't talk to reporters on game days, and regularly consulted with his goalposts during games.  He was even arrested in 2000 for domestic violence, where the insane Quebecois netminder destroyed the inside of his house and allegedly ripped a door clean off its hinges after his ex-wife, Michele, locked herself in a room.

It comes as no big surprise then, that Roy was a scrappy fella who had no fear of dropping the gloves.  In today's NHL entire team-on-team fights have become an increasingly rare spectacle, and goalie-on-goalie fights even more so.  This is why today, we pay homage to Patrick Roy not for outstanding performance between the pipes, but for his willingness to contribute his fists not once, but twice, to the Red Wings - Avalanche rivalry.