Saturday, June 29, 2013

Taking A Bite Out Of The Cup?

The Canucks hired a coach that knows how to win? He's won a Calder Cup and a Stanley Cup?

Wow, is Marc Crawford back? Oh, yeah, he only made the AHL Final when he was coaching the Baby Leafs in St. John's, but there's that Stanley Cup (thanks, Patrick Roy!).

So, Fonzie it is--John Tortorella (Right About Now, the Funk Soul Brother!). Of course, he last won a Stanley Cup pre-lockout-lockout back in 2004 during the dead puck era. Once he lost his Stanley Cup winning goalie Nikolai Khabibulin in Tampa, not so much. Two first round exits and once missing the playoffs altogether which got him canned.

Onto New York where one assumes he was brought in to get them a Stanley Cup. How'd that work out? Well, the Shot Blockers in his first three seasons lost twice in round one and missed the playoffs in between those two one-and-dones. Then his 10W-10L .500 record in the 2012 playoffs got the Rangers to round three where they subsequently lost to the New Jersey Devils playing 90-year-old Martin Brodeur in net.

This past playoffs, we all know what happened. Torts decides to bench his best offensive player Brad Richards the last two games of the second round series vs. Boston and proceeded to lose to the Bruins.

I don't date bench players

Well, at least he'll have the Sedins killing penalties because we all know the slowest skaters on any team should be doing that. Plus didn't Mario Lemieux lead the league in blocked shots one year? Or maybe that was Phil Esposito? Howie Morenz?

OK, put them out there for the last 20 seconds a la Gretzky and Kurri on the '80s Oilers. That may work...if they can get the twins fitted with rocket skates.

Rocket skates made from golden baby seals

Not sure if the Canucks need any more biting given how Alex Burrows really only woke up the Bruins in the 2011 Final by adding more bite to his game. But, alright, let's give Mr. Bite the benefit of the doubt and look at the truculent positives. Yes, the Canucks need to get tougher BUT where are these players that will do that?  There's no Andrew Shaw or Bryan Bickell on this team (sorry, Zack Kassian). The defence is not exactly Chara scary or Keith steady.

The Nux are also moving to a way tougher division given three of the "larger" teams they struggle to beat--the Kings, the Ducks and the Sharks--are in that new division.

Yes, the window may have closed once the Canucks blew the 2011 Final, but there is that Carolina Hurricanes 2006 rebound back-to-the-Final and win it model? Can the Canucks learn anything from how the Canes did it?

Not enough really has been made of how the Canes lost in the 2002 Final and four years (but only three seasons given the '04/05 lockout) later clawed back to win it all. It's the one model losing Finalists should be looking at.

They did have a new coach in Peter Laviolette who had replaced Paul Maurice after 30 games of the '03/04 season.

The thing with the Canes is although their defence stayed virtually the same (Hedican, Wallin, Wesley and Ward) with just Frantisek Kaberle and Mike Commodore replacing Sean Hill and Marek Malik, the rest of the team had plenty of turnover.

The goalies in '02 were Arturs Irbe and Kevinturs Weekes. Yes, Canuck fans, the two and the same.

In '06 it was Cam Ward. Well, actually it was the #1 netminder Martin Gerber who flopped so badly in the first two games in round one that a change was warranted. Rookie Cam Ward proceeded to channel Patrick Roy and took home the Conn Smythe.

All the wingers changed bar Erik Cole who only got into two playoff games in '06 anyway. Given the '06 wingers were veterans Corey Stillman, Mark Recchi (a late-season pickup) and Ray Whitney with future multiple Cup winners Andrew Ladd and Justin Williams, that's a pretty strong group.

Rod Brind'Amour and Kevyn Adams were back as two of the centers but the additions of Matt Cullen and Doug Weight to go with 21-year-old Eric Staal in just his sophomore season leading the Canes in playoff scoring...and hello, Stanley.

So, there you have it. I guess the change of coach has been done. Now all the Canucks need to do is bring up some hotshot 21-year-old scoring center from the minors and change all their wingers bar maybe a veteran like Christopher Higgins.

That was easy. Next, I solve the crisis in Brazil. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Before They Turned Into Pumpkins

Sure the Nathan Horton injury could really affect the Boston Bruins' chances but they did win the 2011 Stanley Cup without him in the lineup for the last four games of that series. Remember this:

The bigger problem is the loss in Game 1 in the third overtime at 11:59 pm local Blackhawk Time. History has shown up over and over the team that loses a long (we're talking over two overtimes) overtime game in the Final, does not recover.

Remember the "underdog" '90 Edmonton Oilers and Petr Klima's buckethead helmet:

Needless to say, that Klima goal happened in Game 1 also in the third overtime against the B's so cue the eerie ominous fate to come.

Anyway, just because we all know history does repeat itself, here's the list of all the three-overtime games in various Finals:
1931 Game 3 Black Hawks 3 - Habnadiens 2
Cy Wentworth at 13:50 of the third overtime (use the Pat Foley voice).
Montreal wins the series (wait, what?) 3 games to 2 (a five-game Final?).

1990 Game 1 Oil 3 - Bruins 2
Oilers (sans Gretzky in LA) take it 4 games to 1.

1996 Game 4 Avs 1 - Ratsters 0
Uwe Krupp from the point and the sweep over Florida is official.

1999 Game 6 Stars 2 - Sabres 1
Brett Hull puts his foot in the crease and a stupid rule is quickly erased as he nets the Cup-winning goal.
One Hull of a goal

2000 Game 5 Stars 1 - Devils 0
Wow, does anyone outside these two cities even remember this game? Plus what is up with Dallas and three-OT games? Oh, yeah, shots 48-41 over 106 minutes and only one goal. No wonder we forgot. Even the goal--Mike Modano. Here's a reminder.
The Devils win Game 6 in double OT so, hm, curse did not hold thanks to Jason Arnott. 

2002 Game 3 Red Wings 3 - Canes 2
Again the dead puck '00s. Points awarded if you remember Igor Larionov scored the winner. Wings take the series 4 games to 1. 

2008 Game 5 Penguins 4 - Red Wings 3
The summary of this one is wild. Read on here. Petr Sykora (those pesky ex-Devils are everywhere) with the winner.
Detroit went on to win Game 6 and the series.

So, I take that back, your team can recover from that devastating long-OT loss. It's nearly a 50/50 shot so advantage no team after Game 1.

Could we also stop going on about how many shots whatever goalie has faced/stopped through these long overtime games (or even the ones that finish sooner). Last night we kept hearing about how many saves Tuukka Rask had made. Great info without context. When you're on about his 59 saves the 63 shots worked out to an average of 33 shots per a regular 60-minute game. It's not like he was pummeled with rubber in OT. It was his play in the the regulation game facing 39 shots that kept Boston in it more despite the three goals Rask gave up (or should I say minus the one shot going wide that banked off Andrew Ference to tie it up).

This was not the 1987 Kelly Hrudey and Bob Mason mano-a-mano Game 7 Easter Epic. The shots in that 4OT game: Capitals 75-Isles 57. The Caps averaged 13 shots a period for periods 4 through 6. Then they ran out if gas and only had one shot through 8:47 of period 7 until Pat Lafontaine scored for the Islanders.

This was not that other insane game the Capitals were involved in. The 1996 3-2 loss vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins that had Mario Lemieux gets tossed, a penalty shot in overtime (that Joe Juneau of the Caps failed to convert vs. the Pens' Ken Wregget) before Petr Nedved ended it rifling a laser past Ollie the Goalie at half past the "Carson Daly Show." Shed a tear for both Michal Pivonka and Kelly Miller who were "experienced" both games as long-time Caps' players. 
Shots in that one over 79:16--Pens 65-Caps 55 with the Caps outshooting the Pens in OT 37-12. 

So, yeah, folks, long overtimes can be both frustrating ("Somebody please score!") or exhilirating ("They scored? They scored!"). The only thing is, too much of a long-OT thing and unless you're a diehard, it's bedtime.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Belieb In Your Teams

Oh, just in time for the NBA Finals (is there more than one Final?) comes Justin Bieber and his appearance courtside in Miami for Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final (yeah, I'm sticking with the singular now). I'm sure the entire globe has seen The Biebs in all his glory. If not, here he is for your scrutiny.


Yo, dat's da way u drink wadder, bay-bee

We'll leave the fashionistas to critique his headgear that suggests he might be channeling the Great Gazoo, the Mr. T starter kit and the leather shirt and pants (say, didn't Mr. Leather Pants himself Jim Morrison have a relationship with Miami as well?). The real buzz that has hit the sports fan is exactly what team(s) does this short lesbian icon frontrunner bandwagoneer actually root for? Thank you for this indelible Biebs' cap collage.

 Why must I choose only one when there are so many to enjoy?

Of course, no one expects any celeb looking to score prime seats to expand his fan base even wider than was thought humanly possible to actually care about sports so . . . why the comedic gold mining?

Well, as The Sports Guy Bill Simmons got on his soapbox and pointed out there are a few rules about sports team allegiances. Read the whole article here. The crux of the argument is apparently you're pretty much married for life to whatever team you first become attached to in any sport and cannot get a divorce or even sleep around with another team UNLESS that team moves and leaves you heartbroken first.

Yes, even a marriage contract apparently has more loopholes than this one.

Now applying that fave sports team contractual logic (and it is logical to most sports fans despite the fact we're basically cheering for laundry year after year as the song may remain the same but the players, coaches, management and owners sure don't while the laundry may even change for the worse) to other realms it makes about as much sense as the Biebs' sartorial choices--a San Francisco Giants cap with a Texas Rangers jacket? Oh, I see, he's got both major leagues covered.

Let's start with music. Say you're a teenager in the late '80s/early '90s and you fall in love with, say, Oasis. That's it. You better not buy any other bands' T-shirts, CDs (CDs? You mean those shiny coasters my dad has that apparently used to be vehicles to deliver music to our ears?) or see any other bands live unless they're backing up Oasis until Noel finally breaks it off with Liam.

Same with movies (or "fillums" if you prefer, Art). Let's say instead, you're a young whippersnapper in the late 1970s yet to discover punk rock. Along comes a small low-budget flick called Star Wars. You fall in love with the stylings of Mark Hammill. You best not be jumping ship and going to see Blade Runner a few years later with Han Solo in a futuristic trenchcoat. Nope, you've made your bed and now will get plenty of "joy" from Luke Skywalker's scintillating work through the decades.

What do I know? I'm still wearing Fred Perrys and Levi jeans, and it's 2013 although I do hope I've moved on musically and cinematically.

So why don't we all just embrace the Biebs's attitude in the 21st century. After all, look where loyalty gets Cub or Make Belief fans? Heck, look at America's Team now? The players can all be free agents, why can't we fans? You know the Biebs is probably ahead of the curve. It's no longer about what team we support in a deathlike grip until, well, death. It's about the Ws, my man, woman and child!

The New World was not created by loyally following what our Old World ancestors told us to do. It was formed by shifting alliances, pitting one tribe against another until the Earth was scorched so hipsters could tell us how we should live on it in this century.

So, ask not what "your" teams can do for you, ask yourself if the heartache of losing is worth any of it, Cleveland. Come on over to the Dark Leathery Upholstered Side of Team Bieber. Let the Biebs show us the way. Today the Miami Heat. Tomorrow maybe he takes a Riverwalk on the San Antonio Spurs' side.

To update what that great Metropolitan sports philosopher from the last century, Tug McGraw, said--Ya Gotta Belieb, baby, baby, baby.