Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sharks Eaten by Ducks?

Well, down goes Frazier and yet another San Jose season as well as another President's Trophywinner who will not be winning Lord Stanley's Cup, but how great an upset was this?

What are you smokin'?
I'll show you who went down

Obviously, the Anaheim Ducks are a team that is basically, bar Andy McDonald and Samuel Pahlsson, virtually the same crew that won the Cup in 2007. Yet some would have you believe this ranks up there with, say, that rookie Ken Dryden leading Montreal to the upset of upsets over the 70/71 Bruins.

Even that upset, a shocking as it was, has others that are far greater in NHL history. I'll admit there are probably some greater ones impact-wise, but I'm looking at this statistically. So sound the horn and let the countdown begin.

10. 1986 Rangers (.488 winning pct) 3 games to 2 over Flyers (.688) 1st rd.
First of all, 1986 was possibly the strangest playoff year ever with the 7th overall Montreal Canadiens (led by rookie goalie Patrick Roy) meeting up with the 6th overall Calgary Flames (thanks to a Steve Smith own goal) in the Final. Yet it all started in rd. 1 with the 78-pt. NY Rangers knocking off the 110-pt. Philly Flyers thanks mainly to bad goaltending (the death of Pelle Lindbergh certainly cemented the Flyers' hopes) and the fact the Rangers realized there were really only two monsters of the plus-minus on the backline on Philly (Mark Howe +86 and Brad McCrimmon +83) and did a great job pounding them throughout the series.

9. 2006 Oilers (.500) 4 games to 2 over Red Wings (.707) 1st rd.
Another strange playoff year with all four lower seeds in the West winning in rd. 1 and Edmonton, of course, riding a career backup goalie in Dwayne Roloson to the Final. It all started with the Oil knocking off the President's Trophy winners. Despite being outshot by a mile in this series Detroit was done in by bad goaltending on the part of Manny Legace.

8. 1938 Black Hawks (.388) 3 games to 1 over Maple Leafs (.594) Final
You thought the NHL playoffs were brutal when they let in the Snorris Division teams back in the '80s. Think again. Truly the worst Stanley Cup champion in the annals of league history. So the Black Hawks (yes, pre-Blackhawks without the "space") victory led to the NHL waking up and changing the playoff format so such under .500 teams would never again win it all. The league realizing that the best-of-three in the earlier rounds leading to a then best-of-five format for the Final could produce such stinky champions (although they were the first NHL team to sprinkle close to half their lineup with Americans) as a team over a 48-game regular season that was 11 games under .500 (translates to '08/09 New York Islander-like 63-point season) had to go. The '38/39 season saw, at least one semi-final (don't even ask about the rest of the playoff format back then) and the final switched to a best-of-seven series.
The story doesn't end there, for one of the starngest NHL rulings and goalie switch controversies check out the story of the 1938 Final here.

7. 1981 Rangers (.463) 4 games to 2 over Blues (.669) QF
Oh, my those Rangers do love to pull off those upsets. After this stinkbomb laid by the Mike Liut-led Blues, why did Team Canada pick him to play goal in the 1981 Canada Cup? Anyone remember that Final--USSR 8-Canada 1. Thank you, Mike Liut.

6. 1991 North Stars (.425) 4 games to 2 over Blues (.656) 2nd rd.
On the other side of that Ranger coin, I give you the underachieving St. Loser Blues for yet another collapse. This North Stars team provided thrill ride after thrill ride until the bubble burst as Mario and Co. destroyed them 8-0 in Game 6 of the Stanely Cup Final to take home the Pens' first Cup.

5. 1991 Stars (.425) 4 games to 2 over Blackhawks (.663) 1st rd.
President's Trophy Hawks go down and yet another Mike Keenan (see the '86 Flyers) team gets upset early on. The North Stars rode the sensational tending of Jon Casey in 1991 as well as the fie scoring of a certain Canuck employee by the name of Dave Gagner (oh, and Brian Bellows and Neal Broten were no slouches either).
I'm no Dave Gagner, though

4. 1951 Canadiens (.464) over Red Wings (.721) semi-finals
What is it with both the Habs pulling off upsets and the Wings in their monster seasons ('51, '53, '92-'96) losing the plot? Whatever the case, at least in '51 the Habs did not go on and fluke another Cup as the Buds were actually great back then with the '51 Cup their fourth in five seasons.

3. 1945 Maple Leafs (.520) over Canadiens (.800) semi-finals
Look at the Habs' winning percentage. In a 50-game schedule they lost just 8 times. Sure it was a War year but loads of players began returning to their teams as the campaign in Europe wound down. Plus Detroit finished 13 points back! It would be like San Jose finishing first overall with 131 points and the second-best team having 110 points. This was the year the Rocket got his 50 goals in 50 games and the Punch Line (Maurice Richard, Toe Blake and Elmer Lach) finished 1-2-3 in league scoring. It was also the season The Leafs went on to win the Cup in a seventh game in Detroit thanks to rookie goalie Frank McCool (the man who has his own McCool arena) starting off the Finals with three straight shutout wins. For more bizarre trivia, the 1945 Wings clawing back from that 0-3 deficit in games was eerily similar to the 1942 Leafs down 0-3 to the Wings and legendary comeback to win it all in seven.

2. 1930 Canadiens (.580) over Bruins (.875) Final
What is it about Boston and Montreal? Well, this is where it all started. The '29/30 season was one of radical change. The NHL instituted new rules that season allowing forward passing in the offensive zone. If you can believe it, up till then the only forward passing was in your own end and the neutral zone. Then midway through the season because players basically goalsucked the modern offside rule at the bluelines was introduced. No matter how they tinkered with the rules, the Bruins of Eddie Shore and the Dynamite Line of Cooney Weiland, Dit Clapper and Dutch Gainor (now if that doesn't win the All-Name Line, just call me Seppo Repo, put me in an envelope and mail me to Finland) managed to average 4.1 goals a game and the previous season they led the NHL at a 2.0 goals a game clip. The Habs upset led to the Final from 1931 being a best-of-five. the bizarre thing was in 1930 the B's semi was a best-of-five (the Habs one was a best-of-three so, like I said, you thought the playoff system was confusing back in the '70s...think again).

1. 1982 Kings (.394) 3 games to 2 over Oilers (.694) 1st rd.
The Oilers (14th overall with 74 points) fresh off their first playoff foray the previous spring--an Andy Moog inspired three-game upset sweep of the 101-point Montreal Canadiens. Wayne Gretzky of the 50 goals in just 39 games on his way to a record destroying 92-goal, 212-point season. An NHL record 417 goals for. Rookie Grant Fuhr establishing himself in the Oiler net despite Moog's presence.
Let me take you back to Game 4 at the Fabulous Forum in L.A. Series tied 1-1. The Kings in their gold uniforms with the gold pants and socks. The Oilers mocking the Kings by singing "Here we go Oilers, here we go" on the bench after building up a 5-o lead. That Glen Sather smirk behind said bench.
Cue the Miracle on Manchester. The shellshocked Oilers had nothing left in Game 5 and bowed out 7-4 on home ice. Lesson learned (sort of...the '83 Final vs. the Isles and the '86 loss to the Lames aside) as the Oil Dynasty was merely derailed a year or so.
No smirkin' for you in '82

Monday, April 20, 2009

History Swept Aside?

With a 3-0 lead in the series with St. Louis, the Nux have not only set team playoff history but can set even more history. For the record this is first time the Canucks have ever led a best-of-seven playoff series three games to none. This means, of course, come Tuesday's Game 4 we may witness the first sweep by a Vancouver team in a seven-game series.

The Nux have swept just one team in their entire playoff history whipping the Lames 3 games to none in a best-of-five series back in 1982.

Sweep! Sweep!

So channeling the 1982 ghost of Richard Brodeur ("Hey, I'm still alive!")--sweep those Blues!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

How The Other Half Watches The Game

When you have never been in a luxury box, I imagined it being a magical place like a cross between Hef's Mansion and super executive class on Virgin Airlines. Well, burst my bubble, will ya!

Game 2 of the St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks I was able to hornswoggle my way (thanks to my brother's connections) into a luxury box at GM Place. The suite is in the 500 level so these are the so-called "penthouse" suites. No signs of any Penthouse-like models and obviously being this high up meant you were closer to the roof than the action. Even so the view is a lot better than I imagined. We were in a suite in the corner and the corners are much closer to the rink than the luxury boxes on the sides. This meant an almost bird's eye view of the play.

The view from Chopper 9

Within the box itself are 14 seats where fans can sit "outside" and soak up the crowd atmosphere. The front row of (four + four) seats with an aisle between are fronted by a glass wall. That allows for a scary, but great view, and it's something all NHL arenas should consider. "Why not make all front row seat walls even in the upper deck see-through like the ones at the St. Paul Civic Center (the former home of the WHA's Minnesota Fighting Saints)," adds Wayne Connelly.

The back rows have three seats on each side and directly above that is a bar counter with three stools on each side. So the seating capacity of the luxury box is a de facto 20 but 24 tickets I'm informed can be sold per box.

The one problem with the way the seating is set up is the people in the seats in front of you block your view even more than those leaning on railings do in the upper deck. The huge advantage, though, if you are stuck behind a person with a huge cranium is you are not stuck in that particular seat for the entire game. Even though you are often with total strangers (yes, although corporations rent luxury boxes for employees and clients not everyone will know everyone else) people are cool above shifting around seat-wise. Plus if you are sitting on the stools or standing, it's easy enough to readjust your viewing position.

That vertigo-inducing view does have its good points. By being up high you get a better feel for the ebb and flow of the game. You can certainly see how play develops, especially the breakouts, and your eye is even often able to discern line matchups far better. I can certainly see now why scouts, assistant coaches on the headsets, GMs and wirewalkers like to be high above it all.

Now being in a box I assumed fans there would be more into schmoozing than cheering. That is another myth exploded judging from the box I was in. There were the requisite Trevor Linden lovers in their Linden jerseys albeit in current or vintage retro stick logo jerseys (note to Linden fans: next time get the 1994 Cup run jersey or the one he wore as a rookie), and they cheered as wildly as any of the other fans.

The added bonus, despite the ready availability of booze, not a single person turned into a drunken suburban yahoo. And, yes, the booze, the soft drinks, the water and the food are all inclusive for the jaw dropping (and this is a discounted rate) of $10,000 for the luxury box and the $300+ per ticket. So if you are ever invited to a luxury box, you can leave your wallet at home. Then again even with wads of cash on hand, you might want to eat and drink elsewhere beforehand.

The food mainly leaves a lot to be desired. I heard in other years there was often a nice buffet set out before the game but recessionary times means cashing in the food stamps. Snacks ranged from the incredibly bland (ordinary potato chips--no fancy schmanzy salt 'n' vinegar for you, mateys) to the shockingly cold popcorn. Spicy Buffalo wings and Boston pizza did show up during the first intermission and another couple of pizzas were dropped off during the second intermission. Sadly, if you're looking to be eating peeled grapes and drinking flutes of champagne while dining on filet mignon and Atlantic lobster, this isn't the place.

For your eyeballs, there are TV monitors galore. A bunch hang from the ceilings so fans in the luxury box seats can watch replays or follow the play as it goes along. There is also a ubiquitous flatscreen TV in the room itself so as you lounge on the sofas you can watch the game and...the game...and that's pretty much it. Though the logic of watching a game that you can see live by just turning your head to the left escapes me.

Does the TV show other games? Allow you to change channels and watch "Seinfeld" reruns, if the game gets boring? Pop in a DVD and enjoy the surround sound? Does the main scoreboard HD jumbotron do the same? I rest my case.

Lastly, you need to go to the bathroom? No need to line up with the masses. You have your own toilet in the suite. In fact you need never associate with the rest of the crowd. You enter GM place through your own gate (Gate 10) and can take an elevator up to your suite. In fact, during those ugly winter nights where you bundle up in layers then pray that some fool behind you doesn't spill a beer or expunge anything worse on your clothes is gone in a luxury box even if that same fool somehow is in your suite. The suite comes with a cloakroom to hang up all jackets and coats. What a concept!

As far as the game went, you saw it, Roberto Luongo won it thanks to some posts and crossbars that compensated for a shaky glove hand . The Canucks played well in period one then went into a defensive stupor and allowed St. Loo to skate. Going back to the Gateway City and, if Andy Murray can get the right line matchups, keep your eye on Andy McDonald. He looked like a guy who knows where to go and what to do with the puck. Problem for the Blues is Bobby Lu has had his number so far on those one-timers.

Plus, Canuck fans, after almost 40 years of NHL hockey, here is the rule:
You razz the opposing goalie when he lets in a shaky goal or makes a shaky save. And is "Mason, you suck" and "Mason sucks" really the best you can conjure up after 12 years of the BC education system and maybe even a few years beyond that at Whatsamatta U?

Friday, April 17, 2009


Boston and Montreal did not disappoint in Game 1. As a lapsed B's fan, that was Bruins hockey--hits galore and a bunch of no-names (apologies to the Big Bad Bruins and the those guys in the pic to your left).

This got me thinking: How did the Canucks miss out on B's fan fave Milan Lucic who grew up in East Van, played his junior hockey here with the Giants as well as captained Team Canada juniors during the Russian junior tour here? Not to mention lifting both a 2006 WHL championship and a 2007 Memorial Cup.

Lucic went in the second rd. of the 2006 Entry Draft at 50th overall. The Canucks (thank you, david Nonehead!) had no second rd. pick in '06. They did select a WHL player in Michael Grabner an Austrian scoring winger who played for the Spokane Chiefs.

Maybe Grabner will end up in the NHL but, for argument's sake, let's say he turns into a consistent 30-goal scorer. Odds are Lucic will be that in a few years with the added bonus he can hit and fight like a Neely.

Given the Vancouver Giants are one of the winningest teams in junior hockey and the Canucks have yet to draft a single player from the local WHL team and the team is right here in town to scout easily not only their games but their practices out in Ladner...I'm just saying, sometimes the grass is greener closer to home.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

One Done

Day one of the playoffs are done and ho hum. Not exactly the start we needed.

Philly didn't really show up and given they now have Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn healthy (unlike in '08 when the Flyers met the Pens in rd. 3), that "performance" was totally unimpressive.

Calm down, boys, it's only Game 1

The Canes also seemed to have not set the alarm and the Devils easily disposed of them in Game 1.

The Canucks, well, got lucky as they took dumb penalties (although that evened out as St. Loo did, too) and will someone tell Mats Sundin that he is no longer playing for the Make Beliefs. The hit of the game was the bowling pins toppling as David Perron and Kyle Wellwood bonked each other in the heads accidentally methinks.

There were some comments about the crowd but I thought they were into it and given we're never going to be a Ranger or Blackhawk crowd, but for Vancouver, it was decent. Even so, enough with the lunacy of celebrating a Game 1 win in the streets like we won the Cup. It's Game 1 in rd. 1, folks. Mr. Obvious says, "There's still a lot of hockey to be played before the fat lady sings."

At least in Game 1 in Washington Alexander Ovechkin realized it was the playoffs as he was on fire. It'll be a shame if the Caps get eliminated but it's a distinct possibility given the sieve-like qualities of Jose Theodore. Much has been said about his record of getting out of the first round and not much about his overall poor 19W and 26L record in the playoffs coming into Game 1.

The playoffs have started, comrades!

Let's not forget Henrik Lundqvist has a pretty good rd. 1 record these past two playoffs he's been involved in, and he's got Sean Avery doing his best Ken Linseman impression. That "oops, did I pick you" move was brilliant and led to a crucial goal. Say what you want about his mouth but the guy IS a hockey player.

Come on, Boston and Montreal, tonight show the rest of the NHL how it's done.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bring On The Real Season!

The NHL playoffs are finally here and I can wake from my slumber.
I'm sure all fans are scouring every source for info and insight so here are a few thoughts you may or may not be aware of when making your playoff pool choices:

1. It's the D-Fence, Man!
So much emphasis is placed on having a hot goalie but if you dig a bit deeper you'll notice most Cup-winning teams have a Bobby Orr/Larry Robinson/Denis Potvin/Paul Coffey Norris Trophy (or Norris Trophy-like) offensive defenceman on them. This accomplishes two main goals--getting the puck out of your own end when under pressure situations and getting it up to forwards in full flight.
Never chuck a Norris Trophy D-man away

Just have a look at the Cup winners since 2000 and their leading D scorers:
2001 Avs
Rob Blake

2002 Wings
Nicklas Lidstrom (playoff MVP)

2003 Devils
Scott Niedermayer (runner-up in overall playoff scoring)

2004 Lightning
Dan Boyle

2006 Canes
Dave Babych's alumni moustache

2007 Ducks
Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer (playoff MVP)

2008 Wings
Nicklas Lidstrom

The only team throughout that span, and in fact the only team since maybe the Broad Street Bullies, to not have a Norris Trophy-like stud back on the D-line was the Carolina Hurricanes of 2006. Their team D of Frantisek Kaberle, Bret Hedican, Niclas Wallin, Aaron Ward, Mike Commodore, Glen Wesley and Oleg Tverdovsky was enough to bag a Cup.

Is one exception enough to give the Canucks hope? Let's face facts here, the Nux's D-man closest to a Norris Trophy guy is Kevin Bieksa and so far he's not even a Jovo yet. So Roberto Luongo is going to have to stand on his head a la Cam Ward (or would that mean Jason La(Hanna)Barbera will step in a la Ward did when Martin Gerber looked shaky in rd. 1 in '06?).

2. Repeat?
Used to be you could bank on the losing Finalist from the previous season either missing the playoffs altogether or losing in rd. 1. You have to go back to 2001 to find a losing Finalist (Dallas Stars) to find a team who made it past rd. 1...where they promptly got upset in rd. 2 by the St. Louis Blues.
Now the Cup winners are finding the short off-season is affecting them, too.
Three of the last four Cup winners have lost in rd. 1 and one ('07 Carolina Hurricanes) missed the playoffs entirely.
Add to that, not since 2001 has a defending Cup champ made it back to the Final.

One common thread is there is a correlation between their followup regular seasons. Since 2002 every single Cup champ has fallen in the overall standings. Some have a short fall such as 1st to 3rd overall (the '03 Wings who lost in rd. 2) and others fall from 2nd overall to 16th (the '06 'Ning who lost in rd. 1).
Takkoyaki anyone?

So with the Wings dropping from 1st overall to 3rd (while giving up 60 more goals thanks to Chris Osgood's sparkling .887 save percentage among other things), be very scared of the Wings turning into the Dead Things as they try to repeat.

3. Much ado about being a top four seed
The media here was all atwitter about the Canucks needing to get one of the top four seeds because apparently they've only just discovered that the Cup champions tend to come from teams that gain home-ice advantage in at least one round of the playoffs.

Yes, that is true but it is also true good teams WIN Cups and good teams tend to win more games than other teams hence they tend to be higher up in the standings. Do I need to go on?

The point is really: Are the Canucks good enough to win a Cup as they are built right now?

Probably not quite unless they can use the '06 Canes as inspiration given their lack of a true D-stud.

The bigger question is: Why worry about gaining home-ice? It's not like the NHL is the NBA where the teams gaining the home court so totally dominates their playoffs.

Just have a quick look at the results for the team with the home-ice advantage in first rd. matchups since 2001:

#1 seed vs. #8 seed
6W 1L

#2 vs. #7
4W 3L

#3 vs. #6
4W 3L

#4 vs. #5
5W 2L

#1 vs. #8
6W 1L

#2 vs. #7
4W 3L

#3 vs. #6
3W 4L

#4 vs. #5
4W 3L

Obviously the teams that top the conference are the best in the regular season and getting that #1 seed seems to be an overwhelming odds-on good bet in rd. 1. For the rest of the matchups, it's only a slight advantage for teams having home-ice advantage having a W-L series record of 24W 18L.

Plus it was only three seasons ago that the #8 seed Oilers got to the Final and before that it was the #5 seed Flames representing the West in the Final. Rolling back one more season, the Ducks' first appearance in the Final was as a #7 seed.

So getting to the Final can be accomplished as a lower seed but, so far, no lower seed other than the Devils in the '95 lockout season winning their first Cup as a #5 seed.

Maybe, just maybe, it's not so much the seeding but the quality of the team. Good teams tend to be higher seeds. Good teams tend to win Cups.

It's not as if the Cup winners never ever play in a series after rd. 1 as the "underdog" and do not have home-ice advantage. To wit, the #2 seed Ducks beat the #1 seed Wings in the '07 Western Conference Final.

4. Meet me in St. Louis

The Arch de Bernie Federko

Like most fans, I was hoping the Canucks drew the Blackhawks in rd. 1 as win or lose that was going to be entertaining playoff hockey. The dread was drawing the Blue Jackets given the way Ken Hitchcock teams play (although surprisingly against the Canucks there have been a few higher scoring games over the years including this season's 6-5 shootout game) and the scary fact that Steve Mason is one of those hot rookie goalies the playoffs love.
So the compromise choice of the St. Louis Blues, who up until almost the last weekend had not even clinched a playoff spot let alone were able to claw their way past two teams into the #6 seed slot.
So now two of the hottest teams in the second half of the season are matched up and if the Canucks cannot put pucks past the ex-Nashville Preds' backup goalie Chris Mason then he must have turned into Dwayne Roloson of the '06 Oil.
Just remember to have that '03 playoff backup plan when the Blues were up 3-1 on the Nux, and biological warfare was unleashed. The Blues squad came down with the flu and lost that series in seven.

5. If this is Tuesday, this must be Belgium
Ever since the NHL decided to "grow the game" and play regular season hockey outside North America, there has been on constant: The teams that go doom their playoff seasons.

'97/98 Canucks vs. Mighty Ducks in Tokyo
Both teams missed the '98 playoffs. OK, so the '96/97 Canucks were not a playoff team but they did have the hype of adding Mark "the False Messiah" Messier in the off-season and the Ducks had made the playoffs in '97.

'98/99 Flames vs. Sharks in Tokyo
The Flames missed the playoffs but again they were not a playoff team in '97/98. The Sharks did make the playoffs but lost in rd. 1.

'00/01 Penguins vs. Nashville in Tokyo (actually in the suburb of Omiya to be factual)
The Preds missed the playoffs as they did also in '99/00. The Pens, on the other hand, broke the overseas curse and as a # 5 seed made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. Helps to have the NHL's leading scorer in Jaromir Jagr, I guess.

'07/08 Kings vs. Ducks in London
The Kings followed their '06/07 season of non-playoffs with the same in '07/08. The defending Cup champs, (the now not Mighty anymore) Ducks were shockingly upset in rd. 1 thanks to a Dallas Stars powerplay that was on fire thanks to the late season pickup of Brad Richards from the 'Ning

So where does that leave the '08/09 teams that journeyed to Sweden and the Czech Republic.

'08/09 Sens vs. Penguins in Stockholm
We all know the story of the Sens' season that has ended in missing the playoffs for the first time since '96. The Pens also had a rough season having Sergei Gonchar injured for much of the season resulting in coach Michel Therrien's firing and all this hype now that the Crosby Malkins under new coach Dan Bylsma being the popular sleeper pick for the Final.
Don't believe the hype. Even if they channel the ghost of the '01 Jaromir Pens, odds are not good for the Pens...they'll even be up against it trying to get past a hot (top D-men Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn who missed the '08 Conference Final due to injuries are healthy) Flyers' team that has the overlooked goalie Martin Biron playing his best hockey since the All-Star break (.924 save pct. in the second half).

'08/09 Rangers vs. 'Ning in Prague
The 'Ning woes have been well documented. Let's just say hiring a coach who has spent 13 years away from the bench and signing free agents willy (Lindstrom) nilly is not exactly the way to get back in the playoffs. The Rangers also struggled mainly to score which resulted in Tom Renney losing his job and Torts being parachuted in.
Certainly, the NYR are capable of pulling off an upset over the Caps, but again are you really betting your subprime mortgage on this happening?

6. Why are you starting me against the Isles?
I've talked about this before but teams that ride a goalie hard playing them over 70 GP end up flopping badly in the playoffs. They may advance past rd. 1 but often that's as far as they go.
Even topping that 65 GP mark can be dodgy.
This season saw Miikka Kiprusoff again being played to death with 76 GP and that cannot be a good omen. The season the Flames went to the Final, Kipper played all of 38 GP.
The only other playoff goalie at the 70 GP level is the Rangers' King Henrik.

The good news for Canuck fans is Bobby Luuuu only played 54 GP rather than his usual 70+ GP.

The biggest question on the GP front is "Can the man with his own Web site finally prove he doesn't need the two Scotts (Niedermayer and Stevens) to go deep in the playoffs?" Given his measly 31 GP in '08/09, he is as rested as Marc-Andre Fleury (35 GP in '07/08) was last season and we all know how far the Pens went in '08. Then again it all started to go sideways fro Marty when he went from his team-first mask to the me-first mask he now sports. There is no MB in team, Martin.

7. Who to pick?
Lastly, who do you pick in your NHL playoff pool. Obviously, you need to have players on teams that go deep but a good indictaion of who's hot and who's not is to look at the playoff pool stats pack from our good friends at Sportsnet. The predictions I leave to you.
Even Pam knows Fin performs better in the playoffs

Monday, April 13, 2009

Does It Get Any More Surreal Than This?

Words cannot do justice to the Spokane Chiefs vs. Vancouver Giants Game 5 playoff game held Fri., Apr. 10 7:30 p.m. which finished on Sat., Apr. 11 at 12:45 a.m.--119 shots on goal, numerous posts and crossbars, stupid penalties (especially by Evander Kane and Lance Bouma) and all of 5 goals over the 126:05 of play.

The OTs were beyond bizarre.

First there's all that dead time with the 15-minute intermissions between each OT period where you try to kill time by walking around the arena, stretching and yawning and looking at the clock hoping it goes faster. Someone was definitely better prepared as a woman in front of us had a book she brought along.

Mostly, we spent the time thinking should we eat something? I mean, what does one eat at midnight? Popcorn? Peanuts? Ice cream? The scoreboard asked us at one point "Should we order pizza?" which drew a huge round of applause.
The PNE at least kept concessions open throughout which is something that did not happen at GM Place back in '06 during the Canucks' 5-OT game vs. Dallas.
And I did catch a White Spot burger in one of the OT giveaways that I passed along to my hungry nephew sitting next to me.

The in-arena DJ also had all the appropriate songs (albeit nothing really from any decade after the '70s so what does that say about the state of arena rock music?) cued up when the clock struck 12--Eric Clapton's "After Midnight," the Rolling Stones' "Midnight Rambler," etc. (Sadly missing was Wilson Pickett's "In the Midnight Hour," but I digress.)

The OTs do zoom right along without all the TV ads and timeouts.
The second OT was tremendous and probably the best period of the game.
The third OT it was sluggo hockey with the players having zero energy by then.
It didn't help that the Giants version of Krazy George came by our section to bang his drum. At 7:30 p.m. this is very enjoyable. After midnight not so much especially with one's ear drums literally three feet from the drum itself. Meanwhile other people were sleeping across chairs as building began emptying out quite a lot after the third OT.

Then mercifully in the fourth OT, after a Casey Pierro-Zabotel giveaway trying to work for the perfect shot resulted in a turnover semi-breakaway by Blake Gal that ended up with the G-men's Mike Berube somehow trying to lift Gal's stick but ending up putting it in his own net for an own goal, it was over.

Also, on a side note, we sat right next to Evander Kane's schoolage sisters and their (I assume) granddad right down there in row 8. They made it to the end of the game, too.

What can I say but I sort of feel like those falling businessmen in a Magritte painting. Why was I there? What just happened? Did I really sit through two entire hockey games plus in one sitting?

Overtime meets Belgian surrealism

After Spokane's winning goal what was left of the 8,948 fans sat in stunned silence for about a good 30 seconds . . . and then rose and gave the teams a standing ovation.

A night . . . and morning to remember.

Then last night the Giants somehow solved Spokane goalie Dustin Tokarski in double OT to win Game 6 to tie up this epic series at three games each.

Game 7 goes Tuesday and I'll get back to you, if I survive that.