Thursday, May 30, 2013

Round 'Em Up!

Chicago Survivors vs. Lost Angles Can't Shoots

I heard Kelly Hrudey on Marek vs. Wyshynski (May 29th) actually say he thought the Los Angeles Kings could sweep the Chicago Blackhawks. He's probably not alone in that so many in the media seem to have lost the plot. Neither of the two Kings series so far have been (a) worth watching or (b) an indication that the El Lay Kings are actually any good at all. Oh, you enjoyed the way the Kings opened Game 7 at home vs. the San Jose Sharks but pouring all of 3 shots on net in the first and 4 on net in the third. This is a team that's going to sweep Chicago?

The worse thing is the Kings could actually win the Cup again and this time even more so thanks to having an insanely great goalie in Jonathan Quick. Once again, hockey is reduced to nothing more than--find a great goalie, skate and hit hard and score at least two goals a game . . . you too can go deep in the playoffs!

Hey, a little help offensively, please!

Sorry, if I prefer my blue collar hockey more Boston Bruins than LA Kings. I just do. I need actual action around the net not along the boards.

Let's break this Kings hype down. Not only are they scoring at an even slower rate than last year's playoffs through two rounds (2.0 goals per game in 2013 vs. 3.0 in 2012) but for all this "great" hitting they are supposedly doing, it's leading to virtually no offensive chances (24.1 shots per 60 minutes now vs. 28.5 last year) and Quick having to bail them out time and again. This is not your 2012 playoff Kings at all.
They had 30 shots on goal in all of one game out of the 13 they've played even with three of those going into overtime and one lasting over 13 minutes of OT. This is bad hockey period. End of story.

Nearly half of their games they've given up over 30 shots. This is Darryl Sutter hockey. Ride that Kiprusoff/Quick and hit everything in sight so you'll be so tired you can't even be bothered shooting the puck at the net (related philosophy see New York Rangers under Torts and replace hitting with shot blocking). That'll work and get you to the Final and even get you one Cup. Can it get a repeat Cup though when you have now played 13 games vs. just 9 through two rounds last season.

Plus the road warriors of 2012 are long gone. The Kings went 10W 1L on the road back then. This year they are 1W 5L on the road in the playoffs and have to start off in Chicago playing Games 1 and 2 on back-to-back nights this weekend. Good luck with that as this Blackhawk team has had their scare and should be raring to go in round three.  

So, yes, now that Blackhawk fans can breathe again, let's get real. Loads of eventual champions have to overcome being down in series be it 0-2 or 1-3. Do I really need to haul out the list? Unless you're the '70s Habs, you're going to have some tough series along the way to the Cup.

Also, enough with the Jonathan Toews not scoring. You do realize in the 2010 Final, he was the 11th leading scorer with just 3 assists vs. the Philadelphia Flyers? It's about "teams" not individuals otherwise where was Sidney Crosby in 2009? He was the Pittsburgh Penguins' 6th leading scorer with a paltry 3 points vs. the Detroit Red Wings in the Final.

So could we please turn off the panic mode every single playoff year and wake up to the fact, it comes down to matchups and sometimes best vs. best cancel each other out and it means your second, third or fourth best lines have to come through. That's playoff hockey since the days of Jean Beliveau.

Pittsburgh Iggy Want Cup vs. Boston Krugs

Since the Pens got their groove back once their goaltending situation got settled and the B's did the same once they pulled back from the brink in round one, round two was a cakewalk for both teams really.

Now how do these two match up? Well, judging from the two out of three regular season contests where Vokoun was in nets vs. Boston, he played very well with a .944 save percentage. The problem is the B's steamrolled the Pens offensively outshooting them 32-18 and 40-24 in both of those games.

Plus doesn't it seem to you that Boston is starting to look like that 2011 Cup team again? I mean, replace Tim Thomas with Tuukka Rask and Jaromir Jagr is Mark Recchi (maybe not points-wise yet but chance-wise Jagr is 4th on the team so far with 36 shots on goal) and really it's virtually the same team only maybe a bit hungrier to prove they can win it without Timmy.

The B's roll basically three lines who come at you in those swarming waves and their fourth line even won them a game last series vs. the New York Shotblockers. Zdeno Chara is basically a wall back on D. Even the injuries on the back end have not affected their team's D or offense.

What exactly is a Torey Krug anyway? 

Krug: (def'n) Divine Providence

Also, now that Sidney Crosby has been cleared to remove his jaw/chin guard, is he insane enough to do that when he has to play against this Big Bad Bruin now? 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Wake Me When The Pens-Hawks Final Starts

Pittsburgh Vokouns vs. Ottawa Craigers
As other Hasek-edly as Craig Anderson has played in the net for the Sens in round one (.946 save percentage), it's not the first time. He was terrific for the Colorado Avalanche with a .933 save percentage facing a '13 Leaf-like 39.1 shots per game in their 2010 first round loss in six games to the #1 seed San Jose Sharks. With his .941 save percentage during the regular season, let's just say the Sens (and Team USA with Jonathan Quick as well in the mix) are set in goal.

Having said that, don't dismiss Tomas Vokoun as a glorified backup. In that same 2009/10 season, the Czech netminder was arguably the best goalie in the NHL with a .925 save percentage facing a league high 33.8 shots a game. I'd love to say his playoff performance was as good that season but he was playing for the offensively challenged Florida Panthers who finished in 28th place in the overall standings.

Needless to say, Vokoun a year later left as a free agent for Washington. Was Holtby-ed out in the Caps' 2012 playoffs and didn't see any playoff action. Anyway, despite being 36 years old (or maybe because he's 36?) his time is now. He has been a very good netminder in the playoffs. It's just he hasn't actually been IN the playoffs all that much.
His NHL playoff totals to date are:
14 GP
.931 save percentage
32.2 shots against per game

I'll also add The Craiger has not been so hot vs. the firepower of the Pens. His record the last three seasons:
2 W 5L
.898 save percentage

Boston Comebacks vs. New York Lundqvists

Not to harp on goaltending (and shot blocking) but this series could set new levels of dullness not matched since the 2012 Caps-Rangers series. Although the Rangers since the trade deadline were scoring at a league-leading pace, their shutdown game given the Game 6 & 7 shutouts of the Capitals in the last round doesn't bode too well for Boston.

After all Boston had a field day averaging close to 40 shots a game vs. the hideously porous Leaf D who stayed alive until Game 7 mainly thanks to James Reimer.

That's not happening vs. the Rangers. One can only hope in all these games that the B's score first so we can see these teams go toe to toe.

Honestly, enough about goaltending. Let's talk about Derick Brassard being so good that Brad Richards was centering the fourth line by series end and the Rangers potted five in a Game 7. Maybe being in Columbus, Brassard got lost in the mediocrity but this is a former number six overall pick. Pro-rating his QMJHL stats over an 82-game season and he was a 118-point man in junior (218 points in 151 GP). His playoff stats in the Q were 39 points in 36 GP (and that's counting the zero he got in seven games his first season there).

Face facts, the guy was a steal even if Marian Gaborik went the other way. Brassard's 25. Gaborik's 31. Brassard makes his teammates better--end of story.

Chicago Are-We-There-Yets vs. Detroit Not-Dead-Yet Things

An old Snorris Division battle that most likely will see the most exciting hockey in round two even though it could be quick. After all, no matter how much you like the Wings, this is a very special Hawks team. Hopefully, they get what they deserve (a dinner with Al Secord?) for the season they've had.

Detroit beating a very good Ducks team in round one could be a last hurrah of the post-Lidstrom missed-out-on-Suter era. After all, when was the last time the Red Wings were the lower seed and won in the second round. Try never (as, well, usually they are the higher seed). Even in 2011 when the team came back from 0-3 down vs. the San Jose Sharks, they still lost Game 7 in one of the best series in recent Wings history.

Here's hoping we see a hammer-and-tong war of hits galore like the St. Louis-LA series with as many shots-a-go-go as the Boston-Toronto series.

San Jose Next Gen vs. LA Still Kings

Fans of the Sharks are probably saying finally all the pieces are coming together. the oldsters (Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle) are scoring as well as the youngsters (Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture). Their goaltending is reliable with Antti "I have a Cup!" Niemi. Brent Burns is finally playing the right position--power forward. (Since he played that in junior, why did that anti-hockey Jacques Lemaire have to mess that up after Burns got drafted by the Minnesota Wild? Where was the Byfuglien logic?).

Of course, all these pieces seem to be falling into place and the Sharks end up having to play the defending Darryl Sutters in round two with Jonathan Quick in Stanley Cup 2012 form.

San Jose just cannot win both literally and ironically.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

East Is Not Least

After that less than stellar start last night, here's hoping the East gives us some goals tonight. Sorry, but did anyone other than Jonathan Quick on El Lay realize the playoffs had actually started?

Crosby Malkins vs. Not Yet Brooklyn Islanders

The Isles' main rival over the years may be the New York Rangers and the Pens' have the Philadelphia Flyers (what about us, asks Ovie's Caps?) but the Isles and Pens have had some terrific history--both recent, past and back in the pre-HD age. Rick DiPetro, this is your life.

Everyone and their Ferraro knows of David Volek and the more than huge upset of the two-time defending champions in '93, but take the wayback time machine and see where the Isles' legacy of amazing 0-3 comebacks truly started here.

So, bring it on, baby!

Les Canadiens vs. House of Commons

How the Sens contain Howie Morenz in this two-game total goals semi-final will be key. The Sens are no slouches in the goal scoring department with Erik Karlsson feeding Cy Denneny. Still it looks like Carey Price's struggles in net are no match for Ottawa's outstanding netminder Alex Connell. I predict in this year 27 of the 20th century a victory for the King Clancys!

This should be one for the aged.

PJ, I'm open!

Washington Ovies vs. NY Shot Blockers

Yes, the Strangers were one of the most boring teams in last year's playoffs. Sorry, shot blocking may translate into wins, but it's not exactly off the charts on the entertainment scale. After all, let The Lundqvist do what he's paid to do...and what he does well. Maybe Torts woke up but after the trade deadline infused the Rangers with a bunch of bodies, they took off. At their scoring pace in April (3.57 goals per game), they were Pittsburgh-like (Pens averaged 3.44 goals per game over the 48-game schedule).

Throw in the revitalized Ovechkin under coach Adam Oates and it looks like the 2013 series will be infinitesimally more entertaining than last season's seven game snorefest.

Tarrana Kessels vs. Boston Trade Bonanza

No matter if you think Brian Burke was or wasn't a genius, the Phil Kessel trade will be his legacy in T.O. Let's remind everyone what the deal was exactly. The Bruins got in return three draft picks that turned out to be Tyler Seguin, a defenceman who has a fave superhero and Jared Knight. The former two are both playing for the B's and Seguin not only chipped in with a critical performance in their Cup run as a rookie but led the team in scoring in '11/12. Do the Dougie Hamilton has been impressive as a rookie this season on the Boston D. Knight--the jury's still out.
This trade was voted the best ever in Boston sports history (and remember the NBA Celtics got two cornerstones of an '80s dynasty in both Robert Parrish and Kevin McHale in a trade).

It doesn't stop there with Boston and the Centre of the Universe. Boston's outstanding goalie Tuukka Rask who's basically made most forget Tim Thomas's contract is on Long Island while his roly poly Gump body is on some couch in Colorado. The B's traded former Rookie of the Year Andrew Raycroft to the Leafs for Tuukka Rask. The Make Beliefs made this trade thinking Team Canada World Junior hero Justin Pogge was going to be their number one goalie. That Raycroft/Pogge tandem played all of 98 games with the Leafs. Pogge's only NHL games were the seven with the team and he had a sparkling .844 save percentage. Both are now playing in Italy. So, news flash, Maple Syrups, success at the World Juniors in net is meaningless. Yours, Jimmy Waite, Mario Gosselin and Mike Moffat.

You guys make me maple laff