Tuesday, April 30, 2013

NHL Playoffs 2013, Western Conference: Notes And Observation

Chicago (1) VS Minnesota (8)

Minny's first playoff appearance in 5 years, and also no playoff series wins since 2003

Will Pominville play? Heatley will be missed!

Chicago gets the President's trophy, and now goes in without Emery and Bolland. Sort of makes them a little less than the best!

Anaheim (2) VS Detroit (7)

Detroit gets through the season sans Lidstrom. Now a postseason without him!

Fasth and Hiller, spot the similarities: 30 years old, 15 wins, 6 losses. Now, who do you go with?

Detroit's injuries: Helm and Miller are out, Bertuzzi and Samuelsson are iffy for game 1

Vancouver (3) VS San Jose (6)

Schneider is apparently in goal for game 1, but I got this feeling that we will see Luongo before this series is over

Niemi keeps proving how underrated he is. Look for him to steal some games

So much the same faces from last year for Vancouver, but Sestito (double palindrome in his last name?) will make his NHL playoff debut. Also, look for another first-time-in-the-playoffs-in-the-bigs, Jordan Schroeder

St, Louis (4) VS Los Angeles (5)

Oshie and Jackman are expected back, but Nichol is out for a while. Langenbrunner is not expected back this season after hip surgery

LA has Richards and Brown expected back for game 1, but Greene is iffy. Mitchell is not expected back this year

Quick proved it big time last year in the postseason. Can he do it again? But I also think Elliott is going to have a great series. I pick this matchup to have the best goaltending!


References


"Official Site of the National Hockey League.” NHL.com. National Hockey League. Web. 30 Apr. 2013.

Sports Reference LLC. Hockey-Reference.com - Hockey Statistics and History. http://www.hockey-reference.com/. Web. 30 Apr. 2013.

Monday, April 29, 2013

NHL Playoffs 2013, Eastern Conference: Notes And Observations


Pittsburgh (1) VS New York Islanders (8)

Sid: (if and when)

Tavares: how will he handle his first playoff series?

Both goalies:  40 or more wins in the postseason, who will be better?

Montreal (2) VS Ottawa (7)

Does Montreal play like they did in their first 38 games (25-8-5) or their last 10 games (4-6-0)?

So Karlsson is back (and looking not the least bit out of place), but Spezza isn’t! Pressure on Alfie to be the veteran presence

First playoff Series between the Canadians and this version of the Sens, although the original Sens faced the Habs for the last time in 1927

Washington (3) VS New York Rangers (6)

Does Ovie continue with the hot hand?

Will Marc Staal (with a visor this time!) be back?

How does Oates fare in his first NHL playoff series as a coach?

Boston (4) VS Toronto (5)

First playoff meeting by these two teams since 1974 and the Leafs haven’t beaten Boston in the playoffs since 1959!

Battle of the homer commentators, but having listened to both Bowen and Edwards, I can tell you Jack is way worse!

Battle Of The Goalies That No One Quite Believes In: Reimer (first goalie to take the Leafs to the postseason since Belfour) and Rask (The Thomas Replacement factor)


References

"Official Site of the National Hockey League.” NHL.com. National Hockey League. Web. 29 Apr. 2013. <https://www.nhl.com>


Sports Reference LLC. Hockey-Reference.com - Hockey Statistics and History. http://www.hockey-reference.com/. Web. 29 Apr. 2013.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Why The Canucks Keeping Luongo Is Actually A Good Thing!

I think that the Canucks keeping Luongo makes sense.
There, you read it.
The thing is, while the Canucks have played well, Vancouver is looking at an uphill climb from now until the playoffs. See, here are the standings:

1)      ‘Hawks:  62 points, 10 games left

2)      Ducks: 57 points, 9 games left

3)      ‘Nucks: 48 points, 10 games left

4)      Kings: 48 points, 9 games left

5)      Sharks: 47 points, 10 games left

6)      Wild: 46 points, 10 games left

7)      Blues: 44 points, 11 games left

8)      Red Wings: 43 points, 9 games left

9)      ‘Yotes 40 points, 10 games left

10)   Stars: 39 points, 10 games left

11)   Oilers: 39 points, 10 games left

12)   Blue Jackets, 39 points, 9 games left

13)   Predators, 38 points, 8 games left
So the ‘Nucks are a long (or a “Luong”) way from clinching the playoffs with things still tight. Worse still, Minny, as noted, are just 2 points back, meaning the Canucks could still slide to 7th place if the Wild knock them out of first. I don’t think facing Anaheim or Chicago in the first round is a good idea, do you?
The thing about goaltending, is, mentally, it’s the hardest position in sports. Focus, concentration, whatever you want to call it, you need it for 60 (or more) minutes a night. Then you need even more in the playoffs, as that next goal can change the game or the Series in the opposite direction.
It’s just so much to ask one person to do it, even in the regular season. I’ve read several books on the famous 1972 Series between Canada and USSR, and one thing that struck me is how Canada used two goalies and the Soviets used one.
Now, all three goaltenders that played in that Series made the Hall Of Fame. Think of Canada’s two goalies, Ken Dryden and Tony Esposito. Dryden led the league in games played in 71/72, in addition to winning Calder Trophy for Rookie Of The Year (After winning the Conn Smythe in 1971. Wake me up when someone else does that). Esposito was 1, 2 or 3 in games played from 72/73 till 80/81. Plus he was 3rd in 70/71 and 4th in 69/70.
But coach Harry Sinden was adamant that the mental demands of playing goal were too much for either of them for 8 games. So it was split down the middle 4 goals each. Dryden may have struggled in his first two games, but played well in the last 2, after Canada had fallen behind 3-1-1 in the series. Tony played well, pretty much in all 4 games.
Tretiak played well, I’d say, until game 5, which the Soviets won anyway. But, you could just see it, Canada had figured him out. The Soviets stayed with him the rest of the way, and lost the final 3 games, giving Canada one of it’s all time great international hockey moments. I rank this ahead of the 1987 Canada Cup and 2010 Olympics. So should you.
Anyways, the point is, I’m not sold on Schneider being ready for the rest of a close playoff race, which could resemble one of those old pennant races in baseball (prior to the expanded playoffs of 1969). Think Brooklyn / NY 1941, Boston / New York 1949, 1978. Boston / Minnesota / Detroit / Chicago /(sort of) California) 1967. It was the team with the best pitching that won.
I have a feeling it will be the team with the better goaltending that finishes first in the Northwest.

There is also the matter of how Luongo has handled it. Oh, I should just go over to @strombone1. Despite his recent comments on his contract, I’ve really loved the way he has handled the whole thing.

(Now, I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but you have to wonder, with no deal done, did the Canucks honestly believe they could get a deal done this season, given Roberto’s contract. The signs here, are for a major offseason move. Maybe all this was just a ruse to get him to play better?)

Luongo has played well. It’s just a recent slump (1-2-0, 3.56, .868) which might have had more to do with Roberto fretting on whether he was staying or going, that brought his numbers down (7-4-3, 2.44, .904)

And come playoffs, who do the Canucks turn to if Schneider falters?


References


Anderson, Dave. Pennant Races: Baseball At Its Best. New York: Doubleday, 1994. Print.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Playoff Matchups We Need To See!

So we're about a month away from the playoffs in hockey. Seems so odd to be starting in May, now doesn't it. Any way, to give you all a extra juice in anticipation of what the spring action, here are some playoff matchups that make the NHL playoffs worth it!

Habs VS Bruins
 
This one is as old as your grandparents, and while Montreal may have the all time lead in the playoffs head to head, there’s no denying the history and electricity. And the last time they played (2011) it was a gem of a 7 gamer that helped propel the Cubs to the Stanley Cup. Ask any fan about 2011, and they’ll tell you that series, not the finals against the Canucks, was the sweetest! Of course, Bruins fans also will never forget 1971 (Who is that tall guy in goal, Dry-something?) or 1979, (TOO MANY MEN ON THE ICE!)

Rangers VS Devils

This one was as recent as last year, and the Devils pulled off an upset, on their way to the finals. Again, this one was probably the sweetest for New Jersey fans. Kinda wiped away the feeling of Avery right in front of Brodeur!

Senators VS Leafs

The Sens have waited 9 years so far for another crack at the Leafs. With the team they have now, I gotta think they can win for sure. See, Ottawa wants to get back to being contenders, and to do that, you got beat your rivals. Plus, can you imagine, Sens fans, saying, “We might not be the best in the NHL playoffs, but we are the best in Ontario in the playoffs, now that the Leafs finally made it.” You get the idea! Ask a Sens fan, would you want to beat the Leafs in exchange for getting swept in the next round? Oh, yes!

Jets VS anyone!

Oh it doesn’t matter, just as long as the Jets make it, right?

Habs VS Nordiques

I have it from several insiders (That’s my April fools for you!) But, should the day come when Quebec finally gets the team, this one is a natural. A rematch of the Battle Of Quebec! Habs fans take notice too, when they last won in ’93, which team A) Did you beat in the first round? B) Actually WON an OT game against you?

Flyers VS Penguins

Probably the best playoff series last year. That one simply had it all. And with the history between these two teams. Who will ever forget the 5 OT game back in 2000? There is just something about these two teams hatred for each other that makes this a playoff must, every year!

Blackhawks VS Canucks

Again with the history (will never forget Roger Neilson’s white towel) and with all the classics (Burrows OT winner) and the feeling of, “If we get by them, we got a shot at going all the way”, this one too has the feelings of, every year for sure! This year, with the Schneider / Luongo story line involved, you might not know whose in goal (or Who’s On First) until the very last minute.

Red Wings VS Avalanche

Ohhhhh…the wars these two teams had in the 90s and early 00s. Even meaningless regular season games between these two teams weren’t meaningless! And the two teams really fed off each other, as they won 5 Stanley Cups combined from 1996 to 2002. It was something. But something needs to be done to re-ignite the old flames from this one! Maybe Patrick Roy and Mike Vernon can become the coach of each team, and then brawl during the handshakes! Can you imagine that?

Leave the last from Dino Ciccarelli, after the 1996 series, on Claude Lemieux: "I can't believe I shook the guy's frigging hand. That just pisses me right off."

Oilers VS Flames

Flames fans won’t forget Esa Tikkanen’s solo dash that ended the Flames hopes in 1991, right there in Calgary. That is, the night after Theo Fleury won the Stanley Cup for the Flames (or acted like he did. That was only game 6, alas). Then you have Smith’s (actually Perry Berezan’s) goal that gave Calgary the Series in ’86, Gretzky’s short-handed OT marker in ’88. And let's not forget about the 1984 7 game set, very underrated!