This post is NOT to be confused with Jamie Baker's keys to the game as heard on the Sharks radio broadcasts. Or the TV keys to the game, which, if you haven't heard, will be done by our hero Drew Remenda. Drew's back in the saddle where he should be instead of awkwardly interjecting random neutral bits during the Hockey Night In Canada broadcasts. As for Marty McSorley, he has "personal" matters to attend to. Let's hope it doesn't involve Donald Brashear.
But getting back to the game...like I said a few days ago, the Sharks, when they play their best, are pretty much the best team in the league. Game 2...well, they sure looked awesome for about ten minutes, huh? Then they went back into their somewhat familiar brain-cramp style, buoyed by the appearance of Mark "Jinx" Bell to screw up the rest of the game.
So, what are the keys to Game 3 victory? In a nutshell: don't screw up. But here's a little more detailed analysis.
1) Hit the Red Wings consistently. That means no 20 minute lulls where everyone acts scared of the big Winged wheel or Dominik Hasek's incomprehensible jibber-jabber. Skate hard, then hit, and repeat.
2) Shoot the freakin' puck. Everyone should take a page out of Bill Guerin's playbook and just shoot from damn near everywhere. Speaking of Guerin...
3) Wake up the second line. Patrick Marleau's looked great when he's shifted with Joe Thornton. When he's with Bill Guerin and miscellaneous winger...not so much. I think part of this is that it looks like Mike Babcock's got either the Kris Draper line or the Nicklas Lidstrom defensive tandem to handle Marleau's line. With Thornton, his game's about puck possession, so dumping it in and recovering it down low works for him. For Marleau, his game's about speed and he's getting stifled in the neutral zone. I'd consider altering the lines as such:
Putting Mike Grier with Marleau and Guerin should give that line a little extra speed on the forecheck. Plus, Grier's not afraid to hit anything and he keeps his feet moving at all times to get in behind the defense. Adding Joe Pavelski to the Curtis Brown line gives it a little more of an offensive slant.
4) Clear the freakin' rebounds. Evgeni Nabokov makes the save, good, but get the damn rebound out of there.
5) Move your feet on the power play. The good power play attempts happened when the defense and the wings continuously moved rather than staying static to wait for the Thornton pass.
6) Shoot on the power play. This only works in conjunction with #5 -- if you're constantly rotating your power play and getting shot off, you're much more likely to get a shot through and be free for the rebound. Stay away from the standing still crap that plagued the Nashville series, otherwise your shots will be blocked.
7) And in honor of one of Pete Stemkowski's broadcasting highlights, I'll use one of the Stemmer's favorite keys: PLAY DEFENSE. Yes, longtime Sharks fans should remember Stemmer giving incomprehensible ramblings about having to play tight defense in the defensive zone.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
This post is NOT to be confused with Jamie Baker's keys to the game as heard on the Sharks radio broadcasts. Or the TV keys to the game, which, if you haven't heard, will be done by our hero Drew Remenda. Drew's back in the saddle where he should be instead of awkwardly interjecting random neutral bits during the Hockey Night In Canada broadcasts. As for Marty McSorley, he has "personal" matters to attend to. Let's hope it doesn't involve Donald Brashear.
Round Two, Game Three: (2) Anaheim Ducks at (3) Vancouver Canucks
(series tied 1-1, JavaGeek ‘odds’: ANA 57%)
Sorry, I thought when I started this 'separated at birth' theme with the Wild’s logo, it could be a regular feature. But when a logo is so obviously an killer whale, I can only do so much. If you want, you can vote in the comments, or offer a better alternative.
The Yankee Canuck posted a nice Hannibal Smith reference for his G2 post, but I refuse to be out-A-Teamed in this seven game series, so:
"I pity the fool who, uh, quack quack jibber jabber!"
The Canucks wanted a better result in G2, and even though it took a game-and-a-half, they got it. Time for the Ducks to respond. Vancouver will certainly be a different playing environment than the kick-back Honda Center, but this is essentially the same Ducks team that earned road splits or better in Calgary, Colorado, Edmonton, and Minnesota. They have dealt with hostile road crowds before; let's hope it can happen again.
Prediction: Ducks 4, Canucks 2. Goals by Selanne x2, Pahlsson, and Pronger.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Well, we've got an even series as I think pretty much everyone expected. There was a short instance when I thought that maybe the Sharks would pull off the double upset at Joe Louis, but I'm not one to get too high or too low about this stuff. We stole one from one of the toughest buildings in the NHL and that's a great start, so I'm not complaining. Some random observations:
- Game 1, despite the Sharks win, was a really boring game. It seemed to be very passionless from both sides, like the Sharks were resigned to a defensive shell, and the Wings were resigned to kinda trying but not really. Game 2 was much more of what I was expecting.
- That opening ten minutes of Game 2 was really, really crappy from the Sharks perspective. They got scrambly and started bunching up and chasing the puck and all sorts of bad stuff happens.
- Bad turnover of the series #1: Dominik Hasek goes for an adventure.
- Bad turnover of the series #2: The Sharks try to clear and Mark Bell trucks forward but can't catch up to it, leading to the Pavel Datsyuk goal.
- The insertion of Bell was an interesting decision. If he really has had hip/groin problems bothering him all season, that would explain why he looks awkward trying to do crossovers or sharp turns. Or maybe he's just regressing as his confidence disappears. He had a few good shifts at the end of the second, but there's some weird bad mojo whenever he's in the lineup. Ron Wilson can say that he was inserted to be more physical but I noticed that Joe Pavelski didn't skate the second half of Game 1, making me think that he was injured again. [update] I just double-checked the shift chart for Game 1 and Pavelski had two shifts in the early third and that's it. Haven't seen any word about him being injured though.
- You know, I know he's The Dominator and all, but Hasek still doesn't scare me that much. It's more the defense of Nicklas Lidstrom and the Kris Draper line that scare me (and really, it's more of an irritant because they're so good at what they do).
- What's with the lower bowl Joe Louis Arena fans standing up and waving at random moments? Especially the ones RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA. That's really, really, irritating.
- A lot of good hitting from Mike Grier, Patrick Rissmiller, and even Patrick Marleau getting into the mix. Steve Bernier's gotta start throwing his body around more. Why isn't he winning battles on the boards?
- I don't think Jonathan Cheechoo's got many shots off this series. He's either flubbed them or got them blocked. I wonder how much that knee is still bothering him because that has to affect how fast he can perform the necessary weight transfer for a good shot.
- My power play concerns from the Nashville series are pretty much gone. Even though the Sharks didn't score in Game 2, they had some good possession time and some good movement. I think they work much better when they get away from the traditional two point formation and go into the umbrella. It forces them to rotate more, which helps their creativity.
Back in San Jose, I'm hoping Ron Wilson can use the last-change advantage to sneak in some extra ice time for Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau on the other lines. I'm sure there will be the usual crop of annoying Red Wing fans invading the Tank. Sharks fans, take some solace in the fact that they're pretty much paying between $150 - $700 per ticket depending on where they sit thanks to the legalized scalping of the Sharks ticket trader. Of course, that's not TOO much off from the Joe Louis Arena's ridiculous price bumps, but still, it's nice to know that whatever Wing fans show up will have their wallets gouged.
As good as Luongo was in G2 (and I’m sure there might be a Vancouver writer or two covering that), I gotta stay and congratulate the guy in our nets: playoff-monster J.S. Giguere.
That was the first playoff-overtime goal that J.S. Giguere had surrendered in his career. Over the course of 197:52 (nearly 10 periods!). 103 straight game-saving saves. 8 straight overtime wins, including 4 multi-OT games.
3OT@DET, OTvDET, 5OT@DAL, OT@DAL, 2OT@MIN, OTvNJD, OTvNJD, OTvCGY:
He won ‘em all. He stopped ‘em all. He made zero mistakes.
It had to end someday, but dammit hats off to JS! We were spoiled, weren’t we?
On a lighter note, did you hear the one about the NHL player who got shot in the head, got hit by a bus, and fell off a 30-story building?
Team doctors think he might have the flu.
As this series shifts to Vancouver, so with it comes the winds of May…Brad May, that is. May is eligible to return to play for Anaheim after serving his three-game suspension for the uncalled-for suckerpunch of Minnesota defenseman and minutes-leader Kim Johnsson.
Now I have been very critical of the NHL’s light punishment in this matter—three games was the shortest sentence available to avoid a Boogaard retaliation—but in the NHL’s defense, it was a punch that hardly anyone saw or had footage of; there just haven't been many good pictures of the actual attack. There was a multi-player scrum going on right in front of the benches, and it wasn’t until the cameras zoomed out again that the injured Johnsson (who did not play again in the series) was noticed lying on the ice. Watching the game, none of the TV replays seemed to be able to locate or isolate the suckerpunch, so the NHL may have been going on testimony rather than on hard evidence.
Well, I’ve found some shots that I think people need to see; most of these shots come from a reader submission on the Minnesota Star Tribune’s Wild blog, and in my mind are among the few pieces of actual evidence of May’s crime. I do not believe that the NHL had evidence like this when making its decision, and I don’t think many hockey fans have seen what actually happened.
Ugly. Gruesome. Horrible. Despicable.
Obviously as a Ducks fan, I have a huge moral dilemma here. As a hockey fan (or even as a human being) this is a tough act to forgive or overlook—to ruthlessly attack and injure a career non-fighter with a concussion history—it goes against every notion of the 'code', and obviously the NHL’s 3-game punishment does not do justice to the crime committed.
But having said that, the fact that May deserves a stiffer punishment does not make him any less available going into G3. I think he is among the Ducks’ top-12 forwards at this point in time, and if he does dress, it’s going to be awfully tough for me not to root for him—I still want the Ducks to win, after all.
So I guess I’d like some input on my inner debate here: the question is not so much “Does Brad May deserve a longer suspension?” because the answer is a pretty easy “Yes.” But rather, now that May has served his insufficient suspension, what next? Should the Ducks dress him? And if so, how do I cheer for him?
No matter what, I refuse to hide the evidence. Everyone really ought to know: Brad May is a gutless puke of a thug. The Ducks may be able to use him towards a cup run, but other than his contributions toward that, I hate him.
Comment away, people. Let’s find a way to get the Brad Mays out of the game.
Friday, April 27, 2007
Round Two, Game Two: (3) Vancouver Canucks at (2) Anaheim Ducks
(ANA leads series 1-0, JavaGeek ‘odds’: ANA 75%)
Ever have the same thought twice in one day?
Some messageboard fodder for Duck fans:
Since joining the Canucks, Roberto Luongo has gone head-to-head against J.S. Giguere five times (including pre-season).Pressure’s on, kid.
Five times he’s lost. Three times he’s been yanked.
Luongo’s numbers: 4.33 GAA, .867 sv%
Giguere’s numbers: 1.00 GAA, .968 sv%
Prediction: Ducks 3, Canucks 2. Goals by Perry, Pahlsson, and Moen.
UPDATE: Is picking Sammy to score every game putting too much pressure on him? Pahlsson in a feature article in the L.A. Daily News:
"I'd like to score in every game, but we have to take care of our defensive responsibilities first."Go Ducks.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
(Author's warning: I absolutely suck at photography, and where I sit, pretty much everything gets shot through a pane of glass. It is pretty evident that my autofocus camera decides that it would rather focus on the glass than the people behind it, but I really do not have the know-how or the sobriety to fix it; my solution is really just to point-and-shoot some more. I apologize these pics aren't better, but you should see the ones that did not make the cut!)
(Alternatively, you might just say that this is my perspective as I got progressively drunker throughout the game.)
Here's a real rarity, both Rob Niedermayer and Sammy Pahlsson sitting side by side in the box, begging the question, "Oh crap, who's going to kill this penalty?"
This was early in the first period, and the lady sitting next to me (between myself and the box) really thought I was nuts, between the "Go get 'em Sammy!" yells and me trying repeatedly to get a half-decent photo (turns out the best I could get was a quarter-decent shot).
After they served their time and I put the camera back in my pocket she sighs in the way only an O.C. woman can, and mutters, "You act like you've never been here before."
My only reply? "Well, I never bring my camera here; usually it's just drinking and yelling." It's too difficult to quickly explain and justify a man-crush to a woman that disgusted.
Teemu Selanne in the second period, after his unsportsmanlike penalty. For some reason, I get to see Selanne in the box a lot, and most of the time it is stuff like diving or even his illegal stick. I always try to yell some words of encouragement in there, because really, who likes a depressed Finn?
Selanne is probably the only player who does any sort of acknowledgement to the crowd, though it sometimes isn't more than a quirky eyebrow raise, as if to say, "Who knew that they would call THAT in this day and age?" I always try to control my eyebrows so they don't send the message, "I knew."
Chris Pronger in the box. I never got a really great shot of him (a common theme here), but I was pretty excited to have him there. Despite sitting in these seats six times this year, Pronger had never ever EVER come to visit. It was kind of depressing, really, because I saw him take plenty of penalties on TV.
Is it me, Chris? Is a trade demand imminent?
OK, by now you can see that I am extremely untalented, but to prove it here's Andy McDonald parading around at warp speed as the first star of the game, not in the least bit considerate of us new photo-bloggers who can't seem to focus on anything but the glass in front of them. It occurred to me on my way home that tonight was the second time I had ever thrown a hat on the ice at an NHL contest, and both times it followed a McDonald goal against Vancouver (though this was the first time I actually threw it for an actual hat trick).
Flash back to preseason 2005, immediately following the lockout. In lockout-starved eagerness, I snagged Row B tickets to one of the first preseason games the Ducks played, against the Canucks. Recall, if you will, the format of those first preseason games: no matter the outcome of the game, they would still stage a shootout afterwards (even in non-tie situations). Well, we had lost the game 3-1, and were on our way to also losing that shootout, but Andy Mac managed to score one against Dan Cloutier, and just out of post-lockout excitement (and disbelief that we could lose a game and a shootout), I threw my hat on the ice.
Did I mention that I was drinking that night also?
Any way, there were still four or five shooters left, and the refs noted that there was a hat there sitting awkwardly by the penalty boxes. But they kind of looked at each other and shrugged; after all, it wasn't in the way of anything. All they needed for a shootout was the center stripe. So it sat there, uncomfortably, until the shootout had ended.
I was kind of proud of myself, though. I rationalized, hey, that's the first hat that's been thrown in a year-and-a-half. Welcome back, NHL.
(Think you are better than me at photographing from your playoff seat? Prove it! E-mail your best shots to email@example.com)
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Green shirt? By the penalty box? Hot damn, it's our favorite Ducks blogger, live on Versus! Check out the bottom left/middle of the screen cap (and check out my crappy non-HD TV).
[SLEEK EDIT: Oh, and if you want some audio to go with this playoff image, you can check out my postgame interview with Alanah on thecrazycanucks.com. I guess I'm surprisingly articulate, considering the consumption issues I was dealing with.]
Round Two, Game One: (3) Vancouver Canucks at (2) Anaheim Ducks
(JavaGeek ‘odds’: ANA 63%)
You might think that I’d write something meaningful about this game, given that the 8 teams that won G1 in the first round went on to win the series, but how can I concentrate on that kind of nonsense when I’ve got the Row B seats (playoff edition) tonight?
It’s pretty embarrassing, really, that a jerk like me has (very occasional) access to these seats, but I tell ya, there really are benefits to being a long-time supporter for one of the less respectable franchises during its formative Disney years. So, if you’re at the game, or trying to spot me on TV, I’ll be in my lucky green shirt drinking my stress away, probably to the point that everyone looks like a Sedin to me.
So, is there anyone in the greater British Columbia area who is NOT writing a Canucks blog? Here’s a quick rundown for you Duck fans:
Canucks & Beyond
Alanah is one of the best goof-off writers out there, and has been doing it for a long time. The fact that she aligned herself with notorious Red Wing supporter Kukla’s Korner is kuite kurious, but hey, we all gotta sell our souls to some devil.
Another of what I consider the ‘godfathers’ of blogging, Jes can get pretty silly and opinionated himself; a true fan’s voice in a sea of ordinary commentary. I won’t spoil anything, but there is a bit of a side bet running on this series’ outcome between myself and the Slovak-lover / Swede-hater.
A much different writer than the ones above, but any time I think about my favorites in the blogosphere, TB is always among my top three. Smart, sensible, and always tackling the hard issues, even if you don’t like what he has to say, pay attention to the way he says it. An argumentalist’s wet dream.
Canucks Hockey Blog
JJ is a guy who knows his hockey, loves his team, and links to everything written in the mainstream media that has ever been written about the Canucks. One of the most diligent bloggers out there.
Waiting for Stanley
Getting back to the slightly silly side of blogging, Zanstorm is a Photoshop master and a web designer beyond compare. He covers a LOT of what’s going on in the league, and puts his own spin on anything. Heavy, heavy drinker, which always gets points in my book.
Some guys are just too damn funny, and these guys make me laugh a lot. They are out there scouring YouTube so you don’t have to.
Stick in Rink
Not my most frequent read, but always good to get a female perspective out there. Isabella is particularly fond of rounding up the best message board nonsense and calling it her own—a really nice feature, actually.
I am regularly in awe of those who can pull mountains of variant data and turn it into meaning, and JavaGeek is one of the best. He’ll write about the league in general more than just Vancouver, but I’m sure under that robotic façade is a pretty serious Canucks fan.
This is where bloggers from around Vancouver (and the world) gather round and like the mighty Voltron, form one enormous podcast, which from a production standpoint is pretty top-notch. It’s not exactly a formal setting, but they talk over all the Canuck issues, and hell, I’m supposed to be getting on the phone tonight postgame for a future episode. Not the most professional move, but I’m touched.
And as for blogs I’ve forgotten or only recently stumbled upon:
The Yankee Canuck, The Canucks Outsider, Canuck Fangirl, rodtempleton.net, and The Chief Canuck, well, I’m still getting to all of those, so keep it up. And anyone else with a Canuck site, shoot me your URL also. Might as well make this comprehensive (sigh).
Honestly, I don’t really know how these bloggers all manage to do it. When I got started, there were about zero Anaheim blogs, and still I feel like I’m kind of writing without a lot of redundant competition. Kudos to you all, but seriously, has anyone considered the idea of a Battle of Vancouver? It would certainly save me some money on open web browsers.
Prediction: Ducks 4, Canucks 1. If the last series G1 was any indication, I will be pretty drunk by the time anyone scores a goal, but that's not really a problem for me. Goals by Penner, Niedermayer the elder, Pahlsson, and McDonald. After the game ends, a lot of people will immediately go home and make a blogpost.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
- I'm not the first person to mention this, as 1310 The Ticket covered this base. But in case you didn't get access to the My 27 telecast of the Stars game, a considerable moment of announcer-based jinxing occurred. The channel featured a graphical overlay detailing Turco's crazy shutout streak, ignorantly looking past the fact that the Canucks were outshooting the Stars 12-1 at that point in the 2nd period . If that wasn't enough, Razor Reaugh just about put "the whammy" on Turco by saying that nothing short of an accident would allow a goal to squeak past Turco. In that same minute, Henrik Sedin "accidentally" scored a nice one-timer PP goal on Turco. Whoops.
- By my completely unscientific count, Luongo easily had 2 "You've-gotta-be-kidding me" saves per game in this series. His save on Stu Barnes in the 3rd period was outright astounding.
- Here's my "No Shit" observation: Turco wasn't at fault. In fact, Razor Reaugh and company were wise to point out an interesting fact about Turco's collegiate career: he was 9-2 in elimination games at the University of Michigan. Time to blame Tippett.
- Boucher was a disappointment in this series.
- Norstrom came as advertised: he was a very solid and (counter to my regular season observations) noticable defensive player. He drew a key penalty by taking the puck deep into the Canucks zone and did a great job throughout the series.
- So much for the resurrection of Markus Naslund. Two seasons ago, he was my first-round pick in a fantasy hockey draft. Now he'd be lucky to be my third LW. Naslund might be the last person in hockey to think that Todd Bertuzzi has anything to offer the world.
- Someone needs to introduce the Canucks to the front of the net. Or they should at least find a couple of North American scoring threats.
- Luongo or not, the New York Rangers are probably the only team in the second round that I'd rather face than the Canucks.
- People with time on your hands, please research this for me. Turco shut out the Canucks three times in this series. Has any team lost a playoff match where the goalie got 2 shutouts, let alone 3? Crazy.
Now, if you don't mind me I'm just going to
cry take care of my itchy eyes.
Let me get this out right away -- for all you Wing-nuts out there, there's a reason why almost every MSM pundit has picked the Sharks to win. No, it's not because there's some vast conspiracy against Detroit, and it's not because they "always pick the losers anyway" (a convenient rebuttal that I've seen floating around); it's because the Sharks, when they play their best, are really, really damn good.
See, that's the asterik to this whole thing. When they play their best.
When the Sharks play their best, they skate, they shoot, they grind, and they hit the crap out of other teams. They're too big, too fast, and too strong for just about any defense to handle. They've got interchangeable talent, which means that should Ron Wilson need to, he can put Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton on the same line together, or he can create three scoring lines and a checking line that still pounds the corners with enough grit to make the ghost of Darryl Sutter's teams proud. They hit and wear down defenses, goad them into taking stupid penalties, and have the discipline not to get suckered into it themselves.
The Sharks have a mobile defense that balances big hitting and strong positional play with speed and skill. At their best, they have the wheels to make up for mistakes, the hitting to make forwards think twice about going into nasty areas, and the shots to put fear into a goalie's hockey pants. No, they don't have a Nicklas Lidstrom or Chris Pronger, but they've got enough depth and skill to at least mirror the defense of last year's Hurricanes, if not better it.
And in net? Well, there really isn't much to say about the revival of Evgeni Nabokov. He's simply regained his position as one of the league's top netminders. At his best, he's quick, agile, has a wicked glove hand, and is positionally sound. And, of course, just in case, there's always a little safety net called Vesa Toskala.
Special teams? At their best, the Sharks are mobile, fire from everywhere, and are creative. Any number of their forwards can one-time, and Bill Guerin shoots from the most bizarre angles possible. The penalty kill has been a menace to other teams all season long, with Mike Grier going into overdrive while creating shorthanded opportunities. At their best, the Sharks special teams can handle any team.
From top to bottom, when the Sharks are playing their best, they can run over anyone. The Red Wings know that; just look at the regular season drubbings Detroit took at the hands of San Jose.
That, however, is the big catch with this series -- when the Sharks are playing their best. This Sharks team is also known to be inconsistent and apathetic. When that happens, they don't hit, they don't shoot, and they don't move their feet. They look kinda confused, chase the puck, and have a breakout worse than most beer league teams.
Detroit doesn't scare me. Yes, they've got talent. Yes, they upgraded at the trade deadline. Yes, Dominik Hasek's still an x-factor and can still be the best goalie in the world. Yes, they've got a better blueline, and yes, they've got that god damn weird Detroit mojo that seems to make teams fear going into Joe Louis Arena.
But, if the Sharks played a seven-game series against the Red Wings at their best, I'm 100% convinced that it'll be a case of too big, too fast, and too strong. Not saying that the Wings are a pushover; far from that. But, when the Sharks have everything going full throttle -- from the forwards to the defense to the special teams to the goaltending -- they have all of the critical components to win any series. Detroit at their best is not as good as San Jose at their best. The trouble is, this Sharks team has been known to not play their best for stretches at a time. And that's my big worry.
So, what's it going to come down to? Bounces? Sure. Passion? Definitely. Luck? Hey, every team that makes it to the Cup final needs that. But ultimately, I believe the Sharks control their own destiny, and I think that anyone who's seen this team at their best knows it, even if they don't want to admit it.
Patty, Big Joe, Cheech, Nabby, Hanner, Griersy, and the rest of you...it's yours for the taking if you want it enough. Detroit pundits, flame away...
With round two starting tomorrow, I doubt I’ll have time to properly recap the first round victory over the Wild (yet another instance of California dominating Minnesota), but I do want to take a stab at answering the question of who the real stars of the series were. To be fair, you can make a case for a lot of Anaheim players here:
- Ilja Bryzgalov, for admirably stepping in on zero notice for G1 and playing well enough to start the next three games;
- Getzlaf, Perry, and Penner, who combined for three of the four game-winners in the series;
- Chris Pronger, who led the team in ice time (142 minutes) and scoring (2-4-6);
- or even the d-pair of Niedermayer and Beauchemin, who played big roles in shutting down the Wild’s offense.
You see, there’s two things to keep track of when trying to evaluate the performance of a line: the first obvious one is production, both in goals-for and goals-against. Most people do alright in eyeballing those ‘counting’ stats, and can see who is producing and preventing goals. The second is trickier, but probably just as important, and that is context: who are lines playing against, and what the expected outcome from such a match-up?
From LCS Hockey’s ANA-MIN series rundown:
Hey, maybe this is the postseason people start noticing that Samuel Pahlsson is one of the top two or three defensive forwards in hockey. Not only did Sammy play a big role in containing Marian Gaborik and Pavol Demitra, he also chipped in three assists.This line was unbelievable in round one, totaling 2 goals and 5 assists while frustrating the hell out of the Wild’s dual Slovak threat. (Selanne / McDonald / Kunitz, by comparison, totaled 2 goals and 1 assist in the series, while playing against much less productive players).
Pahlsson in particular was a standout. Using IOF’s H2H ice time site, Pahlsson was on the ice for 63% of Gaborik’s 5-on-5 ice time and 64% of Demitra’s. In addition to that impressive even-strength duty, he also led all Ducks in penalty-killing time (27:35, 55% of Anaheim’s total shorthanded time), in which the Wild managed to score zero PP goals. Remember, the Wild had the sixth-best power play in the league over the course of the regular season.
In the 5-game series, Sammy led all Ducks with 16 hits (twice as much as any of his teammates) and 58 faceoff wins (27 more than any of his teammates). And hell, even when Coach Carlyle ran out of players to put on his power play in a penalty-heavy G2, he threw Sammy, Rob, and Travis out and they managed to produce a faceoff goal almost immediately.
In terms of goal-differential, Pahlsson in the series was on the ice for 4 goals-for, and only 2 goals-against (all situations). Considering the opposition he had to go against was generally the Wild’s top line or even worse, their power play, those are astounding numbers. No wonder Coach Carlyle hasn’t split this line up in any one of the 87 games to-date (an unbelievable stat for that trio, really—zero games missed to injury and zero games split up in line-shuffling).
Go get ‘em, Sammy & friends!
Isn’t hockey a funny sport? First, after the lockout, the NHL decides to foster its divisional rivalries by having the Ducks play its Pacific rivals 8 times a year. Yet somehow, through the magic of actual rivalries (read: playoffs), the Ducks have gone and decided to get busy with the Northwest Division instead.
Over the last two playoffs, the Ducks will now have played all five NW teams in succession:
2006 Round 1: Calgary FlamesThat will mean that by the end of this series the Ducks will have played 25 - 28 consecutive playoff games against the Northwest—take THAT, Overlord Bettman!
2006 Round 2: Colorado Avalanche
2006 Round 3: Edmonton Oilers
2007 Round 1: Minnesota Wild
2007 Round 2: Vancouver Canucks
From my offseason mascot cartoon series, here again is that Northwest Division:
From left to right: The Edmonton Oilcan, the Vancouver OrCanuck, the Calgary Flame, the Colorado AvalanchYeti, and the (ouch!) Minny Wild.
Now on paper, this is an awesome match-up for Anaheim—the Ducks went 3-0-1 against VAN, outscoring them 14-6. But a lot of that was back in November, and I’m certainly not someone who needs reminding about what hot goaltending can do to a playoff series.
Should I start the goaltending controversy in Vancouver, though? Here’s how the VAN netminders fared in their games against Anaheim this season:
Roberto Luongo: 0-3-0, 3.78 GAA, .857 sv%And just for effect:
Danny Sabourin: 1-0-0, 3.13 GAA, .914 sv%
(Hey Vigneault, why not go with the numbers on this one?)
J.S. Giguere: 3-0-1, 1.50 GAA, .941 sv%And maybe that’s the thing that’s scary about this match-up: things are looking a little too convenient, a little too easy. Home ice advantage? Check. More rested than the opposition? Check. A team that we dominated in the regular season (and won me a t-shirt)? Check. A goalie who couldn't beat us all year? Check.
My spidey sense is definitely tingling on this one. More to come later; for now—Go Ducks.
Monday, April 23, 2007
This is downtown SJ after a 3-1 win over the Nashville Predators in game 3. It will take two tough playoff series, but a Battle of California is still possible. Imagine the celebration downtown after beating Detroit or Anaheim. The number of cars on Santa Clara street would double from 3 to 6.
Herod: Anaheim Ducks
Herod ran the town of Redemption, Arizona with an iron fist. Nobody likes him, but everyone fears him. He is so without conscience that he murders his own son in the tournament and then disowns him while he is dying. Herod is unique for a villain in that he does have his softer moments and at times seems likeable. Don’t let it fool you, though; at heart he is pure evil. The Ducks are likewise in control of the playoffs so far. Did anyone seriously entertain the notion that the Ducks were in any trouble during that entire series? The Ducks also have their softer moments (I like Scott Niedermayer, and Getzlaf’s goal in Game 2 was pretty sick), but I still really hope they lose.
Ace Hanlon: Minnesota Wild
Ace Hanlon was a trickster gunslinger who talked a bigger game than he could back up. He was flashy, but humiliated by Herod in the first round and then shot in the chest. Twice. The Wild are similar in that they have their flashy parts (Gaborik, Demitra), but they really had no chance in the first round. The Ducks didn’t kill them, though; they just severely injured one of them.
I couldn't find a picture of him, so this is from some movie. Why is he yelling?
Cantrell is a former Union soldier hired by the townspeople of Redemption to kill Herod. He is an unsavory character, but he’s the only chance the people have. He fails, however, and Herod responds by increasing the taxes of the townsfolk. The Sharks are similar to Sgt. Cantrell because while I don’t really like them, I’m cheering for them because I think they’d have the best chance at beating the Ducks. So far, though, I’m getting the feeling that they won’t be able to.
The Kid: Detroit Red Wings
The Kid tore through his part of the bracket, looking almost unstoppable. He managed to wing Herod (his father) when they fought, but took one to the stomach and bled to death. Herod always denied he was The Kid’s father because The Kid was too soft. Likewise, the Wings are a flashy team that so far has looked unstoppable. I suspect that they would lose if they played the Ducks if they play for the same reason that The Kid fell to Herod; they’re just too soft. This also works because The Kid was played by Leonardo DiCaprio, and he’s pretty just like Henrik Zetterberg.
I couldn't find a picture of him either, so here's a picture of Dred Scott.
Eugene Dred: Nashville Predators
Dred is a local pedophile who rapes the innkeeper’s daughter. He’s a completely vile character and is shot by The Lady in an unofficial duel. Likewise, the Nashville Predators are a gang of (alleged) pedophiles who deserve nothing but contempt. They raped Jonathan Cheechoo’s knee and Steve Bernier’s brain in consecutive games. If they were only shot in a rain-soaked duel by Sharon Stone, they should consider themselves lucky.
Cort: New York Rangers
Cort was on the other side of the bracket from Herod. He used to be one of Herod’s gang but left when he found God. He’s old and weary of life, but he can still use a gun surprisingly well. I used to hate the Rangers back when they were good, but sort of forgot about them when they started sucking at the turn of the millenium. Now they’re back and surprisingly competitive, even though no one really thought they had much of a chance. I guess you shouldn’t underestimate experience and gumption. Plus, Russell Crowe is well-known for being a dick, and so is Sean Avery, so that works too.
Spotted Horse: Buffalo Sabres
Spotted Horse was a giant Native American dude who said he could not be killed by a white man… right up until Cort shot him in the head. Likewise, the Sabres have been called invincible, but I just don’t see it. They look small and weak defensively. I swear, I feel like I’m taking crazy pills. Does no one think they look beatable but me?
The Lady: Ottawa Senators
This one was the toughest to find a similarity for. The Lady hated Herod because she had killed her father while trying to free him from a trap set up by Herod (It's complicated). This haunted her up until the tournament, when she finally accepted it and faced Herod. She killed him and freed the town from tyranny. The Senators also have an embarrassing episode in their past (their shameless tanking to get Alexander Daigle in 1993 and general suckitude throughout the 90s), which resulted in years of hardship for them (never getting over the hump the last few years). They seem better now though, like they could really do something in the playoffs. It depends a lot on Ray Emery, but they’re the team that could stand up to the Ducks. (At least if The Quick and the Dead is any indication.)
(Oh, and just so you know, Earl Sleek is Ratsy, the guy who was Herod’s lap dog and was eventually shot by Herod for injuring Cort’s hand and generally being a shitheel.)
Sunday, April 22, 2007
It all comes down to the big Game 7 between the two teams that can't score. So, will it be Anaheim/Vancouver and Detroit/San Jose or will we get the Battle of California in the second round?
Sharks and Ducks fans, which would you prefer? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
For me, I'd think it'd be only fitting if the Sharks and the Ducks met in the Conference Finals. Not just because of the building rivalry between the teams, but also because of the ways that the teams are kind of built in a weird yin/yang fitting sort of way. Plus, I really do believe that the Sharks and Ducks are the best teams in the West. And it'd be nice if Vancouver could soften the Duckies defense up a little bit before we take them on.
Come on Canucks, don't choke this one away!
I'm really hung over from my brother's wedding last night, but not so much that I can't poke a little fun.
I'm not a huge guy on predictions (other than predicting goals from the stick of Pahlsson); probably the last playoff prediction I made was last summer, when I predicted Phoenix to make the conference finals. I know that picking winners, especially, in the west, is a crapshoot.
Still, gotta poke some fun at Mirtle, who previewed both BoC series (ANA-MIN, NSH-SJS), and went against the BoC teams and predicted 16 wins for Minnesota and 8 wins for Nashville.
Turns out he was only off by 15 and 7. Time to stop copying that monkey, Mirtle.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
(Hey guys. Earl’s out doing something less important than playoff hockey, so I’m covering for him. Now, I don’t like you and you don’t like me, but for the sake of the site I’m going to try and be a Ducks fan. I’ll try not to use any big words.)
Derek Boogaard is probably the scariest man in the NHL. I get the same feeling watching him that I used to get whenever the general in
Hey, George is going to win- ohgoddammit.
I love George Parros (
This is a match-up that could really determine Parros’ place in the NHL. Sure, he beats on guys like Darcy Hordichuk and Cam Janssen, but Parros is not yet in the class of Donald Brashear, George Laraque, or Boogard. This game could change all that. To win, however, George is giong to have to fight angry. He needs the match Boogaard's insanity and really let loose. Can he do it? I don't know. We all love Parros, but eventually he is going to have to start winning bouts against guys his own size if he wants to take his place as one of the elite fighters in the NHL.
I don’t know if Parros and Boogaard are actually going to fight tonight; hell, Parros might not even play. I do know that they need to fight, for the sake of their teams. If they fight, I’m expecting nothing less than complete mayhem. I'm talking a building-collapsing, teeth-gnashing, horrifying type of fight. The kind of fight that you initially find awesome, but then realize halfway through that these two men are trying to kill each other. And then it's really, really awesome.
The Wild are desperate and angry after the May punch; the Ducks are in danger of losing the physical advantage they’ve spent all season establishing. Let’s go George; prove you deserve a place in the NHL.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Sorry, one last out-the-door post, then I swear I am done 'til Monday:
Brad May did a very bad thing, sucker-punching Kim Johnsson in the dying minutes of G4 after the game was well-decided on the scoreboard. Johnsson, who has probably never been in an NHL fight, will be out for G5 and his status for the rest of the series is probably in question. You can read my feelings in the comments here, but rest assured, I am not going to try to defend or excuse Brad May's actions, and my personal opinion was that he should be suspended seven games (and wouldn't have minded ten).
But what does the weak-sauce NHL give him? 3 games. The absolutely weakest punishment possible, because that's the bare minimum number of games required to avoid a Boogaard-May scene this postseason.
Avoiding that scene is fine, but to only make it the bare minimum? That strongly suggests that the NHL would have liked to have given him less for the incident, and that's pretty bullshit.
Wow. Last night's game was just a kick in the nuts.
Reading today's Dallas Morning News didn't exactly soothe anything either. The Turco-Tippett era seems downright jinxed. It's really just a matter of what we want to call it. The Newy Curse? Maybe the Belfour Hangover?
Just reading some of the quotes and statistics, it looks pretty bad for the how-the-hell-are-we-down-3-1 Stars.
- Six straight playoff loses at home. Maybe the Stars need a "reunion" with their old arena.
- Just a set of awful stats for Modano: 0 shots in Game 4. According to the DMN, he only spent 9 seconds on the ice during a 5-on-3 powerplay. He also vented his frustration regarding Tippett's system. I'd say this ranges from not-good to catastrophic.
- The Stars are 3-10 in the last three years of the playoffs. Yikes.
It all could be tied up if Mike Ribeiro's near-goal scooted a mere inch or two further before former Star Willie Mitchell propelled it from the net. It was one of those situations where I looked away to discuss the greatness of the goal (I think my exact words, after saying that Modano, Ribeiro and Co. needed to step their games up, were "Speak of the devil!") before watching in slack jawed horror that it didn't count. And it was a good call. Good lord.
It's strange. I've never really enjoyed watching the Stars until this season. Yet even though they've played oftentimes captivating hockey, it's the same old song and dance.
The Stars are an aging team and Turco's contract numbers are big. That being said, he's not at fault. Hell, he's only allowed 9 goals in the equivalent of 5 games (my expert math says that's a sub-2.00 GAA). Turco's the caliber of goalie that can keep the Stars in the playoff mix for years to come, so it's finally time to ask some uncomfortable questions.
The question, sadly, is about American Hero Mike Modano, former perennial Selke candidate Jere Lehtinen and even captain Brendan Morrow. These guys haven't produced those crucial points. You know a team's desperate when you find yourself missing Eric Lindros.
It's hard to argue with a team that seems mostly well-run and well-coached, but at some point this team has to make a deep playoff run or make some significant changes. I don't know how long they can wait, because the clock is ticking on Modano, Zubov and these Stars.
On that DMN spread, Modano said that this year's playoffs are starting to look a lot like last year. If this core group is worth keeping around, they'll at least make this thing interesting.
Three 1-goal losses show that they're not getting blown out of the water, but we'll see how much heart the Stars have come Thursday.
P.S. Here's a number to make Java Geek beam: the Stars missed the net 19 times in Game 4. Maybe Boothe Laser Eye Center, which advertises heavily in Dallas, needs to give the Stars a group discount for 20/20 vision. They're shooting like Happy Gilmores out there.
On a personal note, this series started to get pretty inconvenient for me somewhere early in the third period last night. Or to say it more accurately, somehow this series was on its path of ultimate alignment with my coming schedule, but the improbable synchronicity could not be sustained.
You see, my brother is getting married in SoCal this weekend, and I am the best man. Thursday (G5) I will be tied up in the wedding rehearsal, and Saturday (G6, if necessary), I will be locked in to the actual wedding itself. I have made a best-man-vow to my brother (who is by no means a Ducks fan or even a hockey fan) that I will not be obsessive about the Ducks during this stretch, and now that Anaheim will not be facing elimination, I intend on keeping that promise. As I told my brother, “Hey, at least you didn’t pick a wedding date during the cup finals.”
Therefore this will be my last post until next week; my next post will either be a G7 game-day-post or if the Ducks win one of the next two games, a preview for round 2. A few bullets to leave you with, though:
- By no means does this mean I should be off the hook in terms of trash-talk or chastisement for anything that goes down in the remainder of the series. I certainly have demonstrated high levels of hubris and have been a bit careless with karma (for instance, the image I used in the G4 GDP to invoke a sweep was the exact same image I used last year when the Ducks avoided getting swept at Rexall), so feel free to insult me (or Brad May) in the comments.
- Another karma note: even though I suck at growing facial hair (I’ll blame my half-Korean ancestry), today is the first day I’m clean-shaven, also in preparation for wedding day.
- Is a comeback possible? For sure. Every year around this time we get reminded through one series or another that yes, only two teams ever have come back from an 0-3 deficit, and while I’ll agree the odds are long for the trailing team, I expect that I will live to see it happen again (hopefully not in this series). It’s kind of like flipping a coin four times, except with the added factor of momentum, and I don’t think of four wins as an impossible outcome, especially when games have been this close.
- Hey, but there are bright sides to a G4 loss. Having a G5 in Anaheim should give the Ducks a little more money available to try to re-sign some UFA-combination of Selanne and Giguere, and historically, a dominant sweep with a week-plus of layoff has never been that good for Anaheim. In ’03 after sweeping the Wild and outscoring them 9-1, the Mighty Ducks had 11 days off before G1 in New Jersey, and managed to score zero goals while losing the first two games of the SCF. In ’06 after sweeping the Avalanche and outscoring them 16-4, the Mighty Ducks had 8 days off before G1 vs. Edmonton, and managed to score two goals while losing the first two games of the WCF.
- As it pertains to last night’s game, playing without Frenchie Beauchemin was a pretty tangible blow, as I saw a lot more Huskins / Dipenta / Rome than I’m usually comfortable with. The Wild’s offensive outburst wasn’t that troubling to me—there wasn’t really a goal that I thought Bryzgalov had a real good shot at stopping, and it should be noted that Sammy Pahlsson was on the bench for all four MIN goals (the four that counted; I have no idea why that 5th goal was called off).
- I don’t really have a lot of answers for G5, but here’s some shot-in-the-dark guesses to some burning questions: (a) will Beauchemin be available? (Yes, sparingly). (b) who will start in net for Anaheim? (Giguere). (c) how many games will Brad May or Shawn Thornton be suspended? (May: seven, Thornton: one). (d) do I hate the Wild now? (not yet).
- For more Ducks coverage, you can check out Girl With a Puck, Anaheim Duck Fan, Duck's Blog, or On the Pond. For more Wild coverage, check out Wild Puck Banter, Puck Wild, or Wild Hockey (A Guide for the Casual Fan) .
So, enjoy the next game or two without me, and have an extra "toast the couple" drink on Saturday; I’m sure there will be more Sharks and Stars content here to keep you amused, and I’ll stop by occasionally in the comments section. For now, the next thing I’ve got to write is my long-put-off best man speech.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Here are a few photos and video clips from the Sharks 3-1 win over the Predators in game 3 at HP Pavilion yesterday. Nashville had a slight edge in play after the first period, and a one goal lead, but San Jose consistently pounded on the Predators defenseman with a heavy forecheck. It wore them down, and Milan Michalek, Ryane Clowe, and Patrick Marleau capitalized in the final 2 periods. Game 4 is on Wednesday.
(that’s “Wild” spelled with zero Ws and seven Ls, by the way, a tribute to their all-time postseason record against Anaheim.)
Game Four: (2) Anaheim Ducks at (7) Minnesota Wild
(ANA leads series 3-0, JavaGeek ‘odds’: ANA 95%)
Aww, doesn't this picture take you back to the ol' Disney days?
Are the Ducks really going to pull off another sweep, their fourth since 2003? To put that in perspective, the rest of the NHL over that timespan has had only two sweeps (TB 1, NJ 1).
It's by no means an automatic, given the Wild's lofty home record and how closely each game of the series has been. Let’s not forget that Minnesota has a history of resilience—back in 2003 Minnesota fought back twice from a 3-games-to-1 deficit before hitting the J.S. Giguere wall in the 3rd round. All-time, the Wild are 6-1 in games that they can be eliminated; Anaheim is 6-2 in games that they can eliminate an opponent.
Should the Wild win G4, they can also take comfort in the fact that Anaheim has never in its history won a G5, though it has a 3-2 record in series that have gone at least five games.
The main problem that Minnesota has with Anaheim when it comes to postseason play is that it never gets to show off the best part of its game—relentlessly protecting a lead. How's this for a fun fact? In four-plus games in the 2003 series, the Wild had a lead for only 3 minutes and 53 seconds. In the first three games in this year's series, the Wild have led for only 3 minutes and 51 seconds. It certainly can be frustrating trying to come back against Minnesota (I'm told), but there just hasn't been any opportunity to demonstrate that.
The Ducks played a pretty awesome G3, holding both Demitra and Gaborik shotless, and at the same time allowing Rob Niedermayer to unleash his top-secret weapon (Backstrom: "HE CAN SHOOT?"). Even though MIN had the last change, Pahlsson and RNieds still managed to get on the ice for 60% of Gaborik's even-strength ice time, and both Pronger and Scotty were awesome as well. Turned out to be probably Breezy's easiest game of the series.
Bryzgalov quote of the day (talking about his performance in last year's playoffs):
The witty Bryzgalov tried to convince reporters in his limited English on Monday that he couldn't quite recall his success. "I forget about a year ago," he said. "I have really, really short memory. Sometimes if you ask me what date today [is] I can't tell you. ... I know it's a Monday, but what number?"Prediction: I did well last game predicting according to the '03 Detroit series scores, so sticking with that trend, it'll be Ducks 3, Wild 2. Ducks, by the way, have won their last seven G4s. Goals by Kunitz, Pahlsson, and the scoreless Niedermayer.
[UPDATE: From the Anaheim Ducks' official site: "Francois Beauchemin will not play in tonight's Game 4 after taking a puck to the face in Game 3 on Sunday night. His status for the rest of the postseason is uncertain."]
Monday, April 16, 2007
The good Caps fans at Japer's Rink are mourning their lack of a #1 center and golfing in April rather than skating. To try and lift them out of their depression, they've decided to try and vicariously live through other awesome teams, such as the Sharks and Ducks. If you've taken any pictures of you at the game or watching the game with buddies, shoot them over to japers.rink.photos (at) gmail dot com and they'll post it and cry.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
(Author's note: I don't even have the right to brag about most of this, as I care little for baseball and very little for basketball, and the Ducks aren't out of the woods yet with the pesky Wild. But what the hell? I'm feeling cocky today.)
2002 MLB playoffs, Round Two:
(4) Anaheim Angels defeat (3) Minnesota Twins 4-1
Angels win the last four games of the series.
2003 NBA playoffs, Round One:
(5) Los Angeles Lakers defeat (4) Minnesota Timberwolves 4-2
Lakers win the last three games of the series.
2003 NHL playoffs, Round Three:
(7) Mighty Ducks of Anaheim defeat (6) Minnesota Wild 4-0
Mighty Ducks allow only one goal in the series sweep.
2004 NBA playoffs, Round Three:
(2) Los Angeles Lakers defeat (1) Minnesota Timberwolves 4-2
Lakers win all three games at home.
2007 NHL playoffs, Round One:
(2) Anaheim Ducks defeat (7) Minnesota Wild 4-1
Ducks win all three games at home.
Game Three: (2) Anaheim Ducks at (7) Minnesota Wild
(ANA leads series 2-0, Java Geek ‘odds’: ANA 83%)
- Ducks definitely got a big win to hold home ice in G2; This will be the 11th playoff series in Anaheim’s history, and so far the team that has won G2 has ended up winning the series every time. Also worth noting, Wild goalie Niklas “Backstroke” Backstrom allowed three goals-against in a game for the first time in over a month, dating back to March 6.
- How about Corey Perry playing more than 3 minutes on the PK in G2? Gutsy move by Carlyle, considering that he’s played less than 10 minutes of penalty kill in his NHL career, but he seemed to handle the assignment capably enough. We’ll see if he gets put out there when Travis Moen is not serving a 10-minute misconduct, though.
- Still, say what you will about Getzlaf (1g 2a), Beauchemin (2g 1a), or Bryzgalov, I still gotta say that the star of this series has been Sammy Pahlsson. Despite his -2 rating, he in particular has been frustrating the Wild's Slovak superstars. From the Minnesota Star-Tribune:
Wild right winger Marian Gaborik figured he'd see a lot of defenseman Chris Pronger in this series, but he has learned quickly what Anaheim's real game plan is to neutralize him: lots and lots of Sami Pahlsson.Yes, Marian. God is omnipresent.
Pahlsson is the Ducks' 29-year-old pest, and the center is one of the most underrated, underappreciated unknowns in the NHL.
"He's everywhere," Gaborik said.
- Vic Ferrari from Irreverent Oilers Fans has set up a really cool head-to-head minutes lookup site here, which tells me that Pahlsson has been on the ice for more than 2/3 of Gaborik’s 5-on-5 ice time thus far. Check it out, for those who are so numerically inclined. In addition, Pahlsson has played more than half Anaheim’s PK time, which has not allowed a goal in 7 straight games (30 for 30). We’ll see how effective Lemaire is in St. Paul at avoiding that even-strength match-up, and how productive the Slovaks are in a Pahlsson-free environment.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Here's a few quick tidbits about the Stars game and a few other playoff related items:
- My, wasn't that 2-0 game 2 win pretty convincing? There were certainly a few close calls with goals, but it's not like that didn't happen to the Stars on Wednesday.
- JavaGeek made a good point about the Stars getting quantity over quality shots-wise, something I picked up on even in Game 2. That being said, it does need to be mentioned that 26-foot shots look a little bit more enticing when they come from the Stars' two high-scoring defensemen (Boucher and Zubov). Java still makes a good point, but there's no denying that the Stars are throwing more pucks at Luongo and most importantly are dominating puck possession.
- One of the underlying subplots of this Stars-Canucks series is the inspired play of Markus Naslund. I think it's a great move to set him up with the Cycle twins. He's certainly been one of 'Couver's most dangerous threats.
- Even with his noted playoff troubles, it's still shocking that Turco just got his first playoff shutout.
- I love getting to see some of the more interesting series such as Pitt-Ott, but for the love of God, can someone televise the Sharks-Predators series? Granted, the NHL might want to distance itself from an increasingly violent mess, but I don't.
- At this rate, the Nashville Predators might become the most hated team in the NHL. And not just by NBC's advertisers.
- Maybe I shouldn't admit this, but I'm rooting for the Ducks against the Wild. The reason is simple: despite stories on ESPN.com, the Wild are still about as interesting as the majestic growth of grass. That's one series that everyone outside of the Min area wants to go a swift 4 games.
Friday, April 13, 2007
Update 11:40: Cheechoo participates in morning skate.
Some random thoughts going into game 2 tonight...
- I really hope the Sharks don't do any sort of stupid headhunting, but I wouldn't be surprised if Mark Bell tries to beat the crap out of Scott Hartnell. Still, I hope the Sharks try to send a "we're tough" message rather than "we're stupid" and the refs keep things under control. The last thing we need is Jordan Tootoo running Patrick Marleau or Joe Thornton in revenge.
- Even though Peter Forsberg only had one assist in game 1, he was still all over the ice. Forsberg and Alexander Radulov caught Scott Hannan and Kyle McLaren flat-footed a few times, and they've really got to get their head up about that. Ditto with Paul Kariya.
- I'm just glad that Steve Sullivan is out indefinitely. Along with Teemu Selanne, Sullivan's one of the most consistent, most annoying Shark killers out there. Funny thing is I always liked him when he was with the Blackhawks.
- Mike Grier or Joe Pavelski? That's the question, and I think they both bring different things to the Joe Thornton line. Grier's a hard forechecker and will hustle back at 110% all the time, and that gives a little more offensive leeway to Thornton and Milan Michalek. Pavelski's got more of an offensive upside and drives the net well, but isn't nearly as beefy as Grier. I'm guessing that just to get his feet wet, Pavelski starts on the third line and Grier stays up front. Depending on how well Pavelski adjusts to the pace of the game, I'd start by giving him power play time and then ease him into the top line.
- Will the Predators stay disciplined? Barry Trotz knows that penalties killed his squad in game 1. Still, I don't think the Sharks will look as confused as they did in the second half of the game. Losing one of your best players can shake your focus, but I expect the Sharks to come out ready for this one. As for the Preds, the best thing the Sharks can do is to try and goad undisciplined players like Tootoo and Hartnell into more penalties without taking anything back in retaliation.
- Patrick Marleau said the best revenge for the Cheechoo hit is to shake the Predator players' hands after the Sharks win. Amen to that.
- Barry Trotz claiming that Hartnell's hit was completely clean is the biggest piece of crap since the FoxTrax puck. I'm betting that Trotz is just playing that up for the fan and media attention, though; it's not like he's going to stir the pot by admitting his player was wrong. He pisses off Sharks fans, makes Preds fans feel better, and gives the media a good quote while trying to divert attention from the actual player. The dude still looks like a mole, though.
- On a final note, I know Red Wing fans have been bitching about Hartnell for ages now. I hate to say that I agree with Red Wing fans, but there's a first time for everything.
Before I get into Stars-Canucks talk, let me say, if Jon Cheechoo really is only "day-to-day," then the NHL needs to set up some kind of Player Who Had the Best Playoff Series While Horribly Injured Trophy.
A few ideas on such an award:
Even though the injury actually kept him out of the playoffs, they could hand out Peter Forsberg's ruptured spleen, which I assume is currently preserved in a jar somewhere in Sweden. Just imagine the "Stanley Cup at the bottom of Mario Lemieux's pool" type stories that could come from that one.
Since even the most astute hockey fans cannot fondly remember superstars of yore such as Mr. Vezina, the NHL could also go the Kirk Gibson Trophy route, since he famously hit a home run in the 1988 World Series against a Hall of Fame closer who had a Hall of Fame moustache even though he could barely run around the bases.
If all else fails, they could always hand out a crutch made of solid gold.
All joking aside, that was a sickening collision. I cannot say if it was dirty or not, but I can say for sure that I'm glad I'm not Scott Hartnell for the next, oh, two weeks or so. Either way, Cheechoo will deserve oodles of respect if he returns during this year's playoffs and a spleen in a jar if he makes it back to play another shift against the Predators. Forsberg could even be on hand to pass it to Cheech, which I guess would be Hannibal Lecter's answer to the green jacket ceremony at the Master's.
OK, that went on too long. Let's move along now...
Due to my work schedule, I was only able to see about "half" of the Stars-Canucks game. This, of course, means that I watched three periods of play. After watching those periods alone [since I had to drive home after the third OT, I didn't witness a single goal during real time] I took away a few things:
1. The Stars greatly outclassed the offensively stunted Canucks, as anyone who watched the game could see.
2. Though he might be sloppy every now and then, Roberto Luongo is the real deal.
3. Maybe Marty Turco really can't catch a break.
4. The Stars might somehow win the series after that monumental kick to the groin, but I know this much: fighting back in this series will take so much out of them that winning the Cup might already be a pipe dream.
5. People in the sports media love to complain about big-OT games, as if to say: "Yes, we actually hate our jobs. So what?"Still, I have to give kudos to the local, quite heralded Ralph Strangis-Darryl Reaugh broadcast team for waiting at least 3 OTs for the "there's sure a lot of overtime" jokes to creep in. Then again, it's not like those guys haven't announced marathon games before (some might remember an 80-minute game against the Ducks and a Cup-clinching marathon against the Sabres).
6. Stu Barnes has to be the Claude Lemieux of playoff OT. He hit a post and just seems to have a knack for scoring those gigantic goals. I'm sure he would have gotten a goal by the 6th OT.
I saw a neat little Sports Illustrated info graphic where they listed 5 star players who usually improve their goal outputs significantly during the playoffs.
In fact, it made me think up a seemingly impossible job for a stat nut. I challenge a hockey stat savant to dig up compelling numbers on players who score an absurdly disproportionate amount of playoff OT points compared to their normal output. (Steve Ott would probably have an unfair advantage since he scored that OT GWG against Colorado in the Stars' last pre-lockout playoff W)At first I thought the Stars might be screwed, since coming back from a road multi-OT loss is about as deflating as it gets. Still, the silver lining is that the Stars should have won that game. So there's hope. But like Cheechoo's knee, you can't say it doesn't hurt.
Game Two: (7) Minnesota Wild at (2) Anaheim Ducks
(ANA leads series 1-0, JavaGeek 'Odds': ANA 71%)
What do you do as a fan when you get to game one of the playoffs, and all of a sudden your team's backup goalie skates out for a surprise start? I suppose you just suck it up and take it.
What do you do when it happens two years in a row?
Watch out, Coach Carlyle; I’m on to you. I’ll be ready for this surprise stunt next year.
Thankfully, the Ducks employ a very capable (if not insane) backup in Ilya Bryzgalov, whose career postseason numbers now sit at 7-4 with 3 shutouts, a 1.41 GAA, and a .945 sv%. For those of you scoring at home, those numbers are in fact better than the numbers J.S. Giguere put up during his Conn Smythe year (1.62 GAA, .945 sv%), though it is important to note that JSG faced more dominant teams with a lesser squad in front of him.
I'd guess based on G1 that Breezy continues to play, but I've been wrong before. Just two days ago, in fact.
Back in 2003, the second-biggest instant celebrity to JSG was Maggie the monkey, a zoological wonder who was able to predict playoff series results with much greater accuracy than any of the TSN 'experts'. As I recall, they would lay two team logos out in front of her, and she would somehow select one of them as her pick, and lo and behold she was quite often right. She got really famous by siding with the Mighty Ducks as they shocked the world by beating 2-seed Detroit and 1-seed Dallas en route to a SCF loss. I haven’t followed her that much since then, but I think she’s got a decent record in years since.
I really thought that Maggie’s fondness for the MD logo was purely graphical—somehow that Disney duck mask captured Maggie’s attention, so this year I was particularly curious how she would react to a new, grown-up webbed-foot-logo re-design. Well this year (for the first time I can recall) Maggie finally picked against the Ducks, which depressed me more than it should have. But then I noticed the picture:
I don’t know when this started, but Maggie’s not picking a thing—instead she’s operating a wheel-of-fortune that's making up her picks. Sorry, but I think that’s bullshit. As soon as you make decisions by spinning a wheel, you’ve taken the monkey out of the equation—I doubt Bob McKenzie or Darren Dreger are waiting their turns on the spinwheel.
Listen, I’ve never really been one for animal activism, but dammit, let's let the damn monkey maker her own choices! Isn't that really what that gimmick is supposed to be?
The Ducks have been very considerate over the past couple of years not to keep their home fans out too late--multiple OT games are nice and all, but they have their place (hint: the road). Here are the last 10 playoff OT games the Ducks have played, sorted by amount of overtime.
80:48 (R) 2003 Rd2 Gm1 Anaheim 4, Dallas 3The 5 longest OT games in this stretch were all played on the road; all home OT games were settled in the first seven minutes. Oh by the way, that's a 9-1 OT record. Strange how our playoff OT record bears zero resemblance to our regular-season OT record.
43:18 (R) 2003 Rd1 Gm1 Anaheim 2, Detroit 1
28:06 (R) 2003 Rd3 Gm1 Anaheim 1, Minnesota 0
16:30 (R) 2006 Rd2 Gm3 Anaheim 4, Colorado 3
9:45 (R) 2006 Rd1 Gm1 Anaheim 1, Calgary 2
6:59 (H) 2003 Rd4 Gm3 Anaheim 3, New Jersey 2
6:53 (H) 2003 Rd1 Gm4 Anaheim 3, Detroit 2
1:44 (R) 2003 Rd2 Gm2 Anaheim 3, Dallas 2
1:36 (H) 2006 Rd1 Gm4 Anaheim 3, Calgary 2
0:39 (H) 2003 Rd4 Gm4 Anaheim 1, New Jersey 0
Prediction: Ducks 3, Wild 1. Goals by Pronger, Pahlsson, and Kunitz. Go Ducks.
p.s. Happy Friday the 13th. Dare I add to the jinx by mentioning that the Ducks have never lost a series in which it has won at least one of the first two games?