Saturday, May 29, 2010

Conference Finals & Stanley Cup Predictions

Conference Finals – Best and Worst

Well, it’s a sad day for true hockey fans. The conference finals are done and the teams that emerged victorious are not the most talented ones.

Best Series
This is like picking the best of the worst. Both series were craptastic. But I have to give it to Montreal-Philadelphia because at least Montreal put up a bit of a fight. Unlike San Jose who simply seemed to turtle.

Halak stayed on his game the entire time. I don’t think he can be held accountable for their loss. Sure there was probably about 2 goals that he “should have had” but considering that no one on his team could get one in the net, those 2 goals were not series enders. The best game to watch of both series was Game 4 in the Habs-Flyers series. The one game where Montreal used their speed, small size and all out gumption to bring their Flyers to their emotional knees. If they could have played more games like that, they’d have triumphed.

Biggest Disappointment
The San Jose Sharks going down in 4 relatively easy games. Nuff said.

Worst Playoff Beard
This guy wins worst playoff beard and also worst playoff face. Dan Carcillo. Wow is he an ugly guy or what? Add to that icky facial hair in the form of an inappropriate mustache (Movember is long gone Dan and so are the 1970s…) and you’ve got the worst playoff beard of the century.

Best Playoff Beard
This boy’s face was covered a lot in the playoffs because he loves making faces at the opposing teams bench. Luckily those faces are graced with a well-groomed, pretty playoff goatee. Maxim Lapierre. What a hottie… in that Sean-Avery-Douchebag sorta way! But hey, everybody loves the class clown. Especially when he’s pretty.

Stanley Cup Winner…?
I really don’t care who wins. To me, the final is now about who has the biggest goons and the best pests. Neither the Blackhawks or the Flyers play skilled hockey. They rely on their Bollands, Ladds, Carcillos and Hartnells to take cheap shots and make dirty plays. In Philly’s defense, they don’t have much else. But Chicago has the very skilled and talented Jonathan Toews. And they almost as skilled Patrick Kane. Unfortunately, those two stars were not enough to get them to where they are now. They wouldn’t have made it past the Canucks without the pests and goons. Well, maybe they could have but rather than rely on his talented team members, Quenneville would rather sit a 276 pound jackass (Byfuglien) on top of the opposing team’s goalie’s head.

So now in order to determine the winner, you have to figure out who has the bigger bullies, the dirtiest players and the most effective pests. My money is on Byfuglien over Pronger for net menace, simply because Byfuglien is younger and Pronger is old and lazier. I also think Ladd and Bolland are better at the cheap and dirty because they get caught less by the refs. Carcillo (if he hits the ice) will not get away with it because the refs are on to him.
I think this is Chicago’s cup to win or lose. And sadly, as much as I hate them and their dirty style of hockey…. I say they win it. In 5.

Like I said either way, it’s not a game I will watch. I prefer skilled hockey and 99% of what you will see in this Stanley Cup final would not be what you would see at say an Olympic level. Whoever wins, it’s not going to be the kind of win that makes you hold your head up high, not if you’re a “real” fan of hockey anyway.

Puck Bunny Prediction: Chicago wins the Cup in 5.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Round 2 Recap & Round 3 Predictions

Another round… another blog.

Best Series
Once again the Montreal Canadiens proved to be the most entertaining team. The Bad News Bears solidified their name as Giant Killers by taking down last year’s Stanley Cup winners. The young rookie PK Subban became Sidney Crosby’s worst nightmare. Halak was an impenetrable force once again. And Mike Cammalleri got the puck where it needed to go. It took 7 games like I had predicted (yes, I’m bragging) but it was 7 exciting, unpredictable games.

Biggest Disappointment
Do I even need to tell you? I live in Vancouver and the Canucks going down to the Chicago Blackhawks is a loss I am still recovering from. The Blackhawks clearly have no problem going as low as necessary (elbows to Roberto Luongo’s head, ripping open Shane O’Brien’s newly stitched head) and the Canucks acted like bullied 6 year olds on a playground. They’ll be a separate blog about the failure (consistent now at round 2 exits) of the Canucks and what needs to change. So for now I’ll just say they had the talent, they couldn’t pull it together and it sucked.
Biggest Surprise
Philadelphia refusing to go away and beating Boston in game 7 after coming back from not only a 3 game deficit but also a 3 goal gap in the game itself. I have no words.

Best Kept Secret
Well he’s no secret but he did really start to shine in round 2. Mike Cammalleri! He’s been a scoring machine and he’s been disciplined. That’s important for a team that, in my opinion, still take too many stupid penalties (I’m looking at you Hal “Giraffe” Gill). Coach’s Corner showed a clip of Cammalleri sitting on the bench before a game against the Penguins focusing and visualizing and it clearly pays off.

Worst Injury
If it’s true, it’s got to be Sami Salo’s ruptured testicle. Although I am fairly certain that no dude with a burst nut would be able to stand up let alone play hockey 2 days later. But whatever the degree of the injury if it involved a ball (which so far every agreed it did) he wins… and I don’t think there’s a boy out there that would stop wincing long enough to disagree.

Worst Playoff Beard
Although he’s the only member of the Chicago Blackhawks I don’t dislike immensely, his playoff beard is craptastic. Jonathan Toews. If you look at him, his whole face is clear of whiskers but he’s got these bad-ass sideburn/chops thing going. It makes him look like a pizza delivery guy in a ‘70s porno.

Best Playoff Beard
Big bad Joe Thornton has a beard that would rival that of last round’s Worst Beard Winner Todd Bertuzzi. The reason that it lands Joe on the best beard list is because Joe’s is blond and groomed. It’s big but it’s not bad!

Since there is only 2 games to predict I’m tacking it on to this blog rather than writing a whole other one.

San Jose Sharks vs Chicago Blackhawks
This series presents a moral dilemma – do I want my archenemy the Hawks (with By-Fugli-en and TwennyCent Kane) to win or the team with the murderer (Heatley).
Honestly, I think I would pick the murderer over the Dirty Birdy Hawks. But this isn’t about my personal preference, it’s about who will win. Sadly San Jose relies on its goal scoring ability more than it’s size and defensive strength. That’s why I think the Hawks and their dirty tactics will school the San Jose Sharks like they did Vancouver.
Puck Bunny Prediction: Chicago in 6.

Philadelphia Flyers vs Montreal Canadiens
This is the worst possible match up for both the Habs fans and the Flyers fans. Because both teams weren’t supposed to here. Both teams have momentum on their side, but the Flyers probably have a wee bit more. That said, Montreal has history, Tradition and now expectation (which could work for or against them). The big factor in this is goaltending and Halak will stop Philly’s momentum easy-peasy.
Puck Bunny Prediction: Montreal win in 6.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Will History be Made or Repeated?

Thank you Canucks. I think I finally understand how my parents felt when I was failing Grade 6 and they tested me and found out I had an above average IQ.

The Vancouver Canucks are my grade 6 year - over and over again.

We have the highest scorer in the league. We have a Team USA rockstar. We have the Gold Medal winning goalie. We have a Detroit veteran powerhouse. We have a stellar home record, a solid away record. I could go on and on about the assests of the Vancouver Canucks. It's probably just easier to cut to what we don't have - a hope in hell.

We're headed into Chicago tomorrow fighting for our lives, down 3 games to 1. We most likely - or most definitely if you tallk to the "expert" broadcasters and anaylists - will be out of the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs in 5 games. Because of the Hawks. Again. Only this time it's worse because if we're out in 5 then the Blackhawks got rid of us one game quicker than last year.

Now I know the predictions, odds and favorites mean diddly. The Montreal Canadiens proved without a doubt that the season, the odds, none of it matters. If it did, I'd still have to be looking at Ovechkin's ugly face. But can Vancouver do it? Oh Hockey Gods I hope so.

Last night's game 4 was some of the worst hockey I have ever seen. The Vancouver Canucks couldn't spell powerplay let alone do anything on one. I thought their PK started off good - I honestly did - but all other hockey fans I know say I'm wrong. I agree that by the 2nd it had completely fallen apart, save for a great block by Ryan Johnson in the 3rd. Luongo struggled from the get-go. In fact, struggle is a polite term. He let in that first goal before fans seats were warm and he - once again - could not cover up a puck to save his life. Would someone check his goddamn glove for holes please!

The Canucks biggest problem is their inability to control their emotions - or more importantly DIRECT their emotions. They let the dirty cheap bullshit that is Chicago's style of play get under their skin. They let it make them angry and they can't chanel that anger into stronger play. They just let it unravel them on every level. Exhibit A: Daniel Sedin taking penalties instead of shots.

The worst offenders of course are Shane O'Brien and Alexandre Burrows. Both have taken more stupid penalties than anyone else. Although I have to admit that I gave Burrows a standing O at the game when he crosschecked Byfuglien in the back of head. Because even I can be a stupid hockey fan led by irrational emotions. The problem is when the Canucks themselves are stupid players led by irrational emotions, they lose.

Now, as they head back to Chi Town to fight off elimination, they're clearly dispondant. Luongo no longer has a playoff beard. O'Brien said in an interview that he proved people right by being "Dumb" on the ice and that the odds were stacked against them. Alex Burrows, well again, he acts like nothing is wrong because he's a dumbass. That said, Burrows and O'Brien are 2 Canucks I have a soft spot for, probably because what makes them turn into dumbass is the passion and heart in their game. When they control it, both are dominating forces on the ice. But they haven't controlled it in the playoffs. Unless they can, they'll never be a real asset to their team.

In my humble hockey opinion, it's the coaches JOB to harness this winning elixir of passion and talent and Alain Vingeault has proven in the last two years that he is NOT the man for that job. When he should have been motivating the team and trying to get their confidence back up, Vingeault instead threw his goalie under the bus. After Game 4 he said of his captain that Luongo was "the second best goalie on the ice." Way to turn their frowns upside down, AV.

I've made it clear for a few years that I don't think Vingeault has what it takes to get Vancouver to the Stanley Cup. He's never brought a team closer than he's brought us and clearly - if we're out again in Round 2 - then that's as good as he can give. We need more as fans. They deserve more as players.

I'm hoping I'm wrong - about Vingeault, that it's not as insurmountable as it feels, that history will not repeat itself.

I'm hoping Luongo can rally the troops (since Vingeault doesn't get that aspect of hockey yet). Afterall, Lu's the Captain and he's been here before - in February. He played 3 Game 7s - faced elimination over and over and held it together and fought through it and won Gold.

He can win a Stanley Cup. They all can. I believe it. They just have to.


I believe.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Reffing woes

Last night I could not sleep. Literally. Over a hockey game. Yeah, I admit that makes me a bit of a moron. I hear there are babies dying in Africa or something so I should be losing sleep over that, but whatever. It was the injustice of the NHL that kept me up all night. I admit it.

The reffing in the NHL is - to me - at an all time low. I fully understand that people may not take me seriously because I'm a chick, because I don't play hockey, because I like to make jokey-jokes, because I'm a chick (let's face it that's the worst offense to most testosterony hockey fans). But I have been watching hockey every season (for various teams, to varying degrees) since my high school best buds Anna Maria and Lori turned me onto to it in 1987.

I get the refs can't call everything. I get that some of the bullshit plays will fall victim to human error. But the frequency of those bullshit misses and unbalanced calls (when they are made) has - this year - reached an unacceptable level. It's become so bad I can't help but wonder if we're getting our refs from CNIB.

What has pushed me over the edge is Game 3 of the Canucks-Blackhawks playoff series. The first period was all action from both teams, but the Canucks were dominating shots on goal. So why were none getting in? Well, three clear reasons;

#1) The canucks were playing really clean hockey. No one was screening Niemi at all - not once. No one was shoving their ass in his face or sticks in his pads. We aren't the Hawks, but sometimes - you really do have to sink to their level and this is one of those times.
#2) The canucks were playing lame hockey. On powerplays they were back to that annoying habit of playing hot potato with the puck rather than peppering the weaker goalie with shots.

#3) Because the minute - the absolute minute - the puck entered his crease and grazed Niemi's pad, glove or stick, or he made even the slightest attempt to cover-up the Ref's whistle shreiked.

This would be fine if it had worked both ways. But here's how the evening went for the Chicago Blackhawks;

#1) Hawks screened the crap out of Roberto Luongo with Byfuglien (who I swear was the body double in Precious he is so huge) and went back to last year's ethic of taking cheap dirty, miraculously undetected jabs, checks and trips to most Canucks within 10 feet of the puck.

#2) When Luongo covered up the puck he had to wait a ridiculous amount of time until the ref found his whistle. Enough time that these thug Hawks managed to jab the puck free in most cases and get another shot off. It could be called a "rebound" if it was a puck that reasonably should have been in play. But it wasn't.

Seriously. I know I am a Canucks fans (on top of being a chick) but I noticed the long vs short whistles well before there was even a score.

And the biggest absolute EPIC FAIL had to be the goal when the Hawks SHOVED the puck (along with the goalie the puck was under) into the net and the ref's failed to call goalie interference. And Toronto had no choice but to rule it a goal since only a referee can make an interference call.

Do I get why Canucks fans threw trash all over the ice? Yes. Do I condone it? No. It was still a very stupid, uncanadian-like thing to do but the anger that led to that inappropriate choice was justified. i can tell you no matter how blind the refs are at the game tonight, I won't be throwing anything.

Here's the argument I get a lot when I bitch about uncalled penalties (big or small) "the ref is just letting them play." That whole "let them play" philosphy only works when it's evenly distributed and during game three of Chicago-Vancouver it wasn't. The refs clearly favored Niemi. End of story.

Furthermore, it's the PLAYOFFS! This is when everyone should be on their best behaviour. This is when the REFEREES should be calling everything. You should have to win it because of skill, tenacity and grit not because you're the bigger bully or the team that has more cheap tricks up their glove.

That was truly the best part about the Olympics - and the Canadian's gold medal win. We played good, clean, SKILLED hockey. I love a good hockey fight as much as anyone but I don't love cheap dirty plays or players. And I absolutely hate incompetant reffing.

I have heard a lot over the years about the economics of the NHL and how that Gargoyle lookalike Bettman only wants U.S. teams in the final because "they bring in the money." I've never been good at math so I don't bother to figure out how that makes any sense. I mean what I do know about hockey (my playoff ticket to Friday's game cost $178 pre taxes/service charges and one in the same section in the Detroit arena cost $41. Also not one of my American-born friends watches hockey and when I was living there I couldn't find a game (even a KINGS game) on a non-cable channel in LA) makes this statement irrational. But I'm sure it has something to do with how even if the entire population of Canada watches hockey it's still less than the entire population of California. Whatever.

I never believed Bettman was rigging the NHL. Mainly because I think conspiracy crap like this is ridiculous. But the way I have seen the reffing start to turn this round.... turn against Canadian teams..... right now those crazy conspiracy theorists have a stronger case than I do for not believing it. Maybe Bettman told the Refs to turn a blind eye to those Canucks (and Canadiens... that though probably came in a late memo since even a dumbass like Bettman wouldn't be stupid enugh to think the Habs would beat the Capitals).

Either that or we really are hiring the NHL refs from a CNIB work-program.