Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Winnipeg is Back

The picture you see right now is the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, MB.  If you haven't quite figured out what this piece is about just from the first sentence, I'm sure many a Winnipeg native will be happy to tell you that Winnipeg is back in the NHL.  An hour ago, the deal that would see the True North Sports and Entertainment group purchase the Atlanta Thrashers was finalized in a press conference in Winnipeg.  Among the attendees for this announcement was NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.  No nickname has been announced for the new Winnipeg team, and the team will compete in the Eastern Conference next season.  Stay tuned for more, and the Atlanta Thrashers eulogy will also be forthcoming.

Stanley Cup Moments, Part 2

Continuing the theme of great moments in the Stanley Cup Finals, today will be a look at a few more moments that forever defined some players.

Here, we have Mario Lemieux in a "History Will be Made" video from last year's playoffs.  The moment in question is him splitting two North Stars players in the 1991 Finals on his way to scoring a goal.

Next, we have the famous call from Game 6 of the 1994 Finals.

While Linden did indeed play the next game, it was the Rangers who would ultimately come away from the Cup.  This series was a conflict of who to root for, as at the time, I liked both teams.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Great Stanley Cup Moments, Avalanche Edition

Being that the Stanley Cup Finals begin Wednesday, that means I have to find ways to pass the time until that day.  So, what is there to do, except reliving moments from past Stanley Cup Finals that mean something to me.

First, we have the 1996 Finals, and the Colorado Avalanche sweeping the Florida Panthers on a Uwe Krupp goal in triple OT.  I remember staying up for this game, and if you were to ask me why I didn't get angry with Krupp when he signed as a free agent with the hated Red Wings a few years later, this would be why:

No matter what else he did in his career, this moment is the one that will forever define him in Avalanche history.

And here, we have the best way to leave the game on top:

Watching this as it played out was a chilling moment, particularly since the first person to skate with the Cup wasn't Joe Sakic, but Ray Bourque.  An equally momentous part of this celebration is that the Boston Bruins fans were nothing but class throughout Bourque's quest for a championship to the point of holding a celebration just for him when the Avs won the Cup in 2001.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Finals Time!

It's been a year in the making, but we are almost at the end of the hockey season.  It's been a fun season as the Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks will battle for the right to hoist Lord Stanley's Cup.  Between now and Wednesday, I will annoy you, the reader, with some personal favorite moments from the last 30 years or so.  In the mean time, the predictions must be made, so without further ado, here is my analysis and prediction:

Goaltending: Tim Thomas has been up and down this playoff season, but when he's had to steal a game for the Bruins, no one has risen to the challenge better than Thomas.  After a problematic first round against Chicago, Roberto Luongo has been remarkably good since game 7 of that series, and not seeing Corey Schneider in net can only be deemed a good sign for him.  Advantage: Boston...barely.

Defense: Boston has had the duo of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg handle nearly half of the game's 60 minutes.  That's not so bad, since both have been a shutdown pairing.  However, missing in all of this is Tomas Kaberle, who was supposed to be the power play quarterback the Bruins needed.  The Canucks cannot boast a shutdown duo that can play half the game.  Instead, they can boast 7 NHL caliber defensemen who play as well as the the sum of the parts suggest.  Advantage: Vancouver

Forwards: Boston is all about the Lucic-Krejci-Horton line.  However, the last series was also about Tyler Seguin's arrival to postseason hockey.  However, Boston will need the likes of Rich Peverley and Patrice Bergeron (if he's healthy) to provide some offense, too.  Vancouver can roll out three capable lines.  Their top two lines are a lethal game of Russian Roulette in that you hope their impact is limited.  Their third line is equally dangerous, even though they don't get the headlines their top two line counterparts get.  Advantage: Vancouver

Intangibles:  Boston has been on a mission to erase last year's embarrassment in losing a 3-0 series lead in the Conference Semifinals.  Vancouver has the weight of a city and a country on their shoulders, and they could get Manny Malhotra back for the Finals.  Advantage: Even

Prediction: For Boston to win the series, Thomas has to be the Vezina Trophy finalist that he is and not the one who looked shaky in the Tampa Bay series half the time.  Boston will also have to impersonate the 1995 Devils' defense.  Vancouver has everything to gain and everything to lose here.  There's just too much firepower up front and a balanced blue line for them not to win.  As always, it ultimately comes down to Luongo, who has played well since his game 6 benching against Chicago.  Ultimately, I will take Vancouver in 6.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Canuck Playoff Anthems

Since the Stanley Cup Finals won't begin until Sunday at the earliest, and given that I need material to write about, but don't want to commit to player stories, I came across a story about the latest of what is becoming the Canucks playoff songs.  So, without further ado, let's look at some of the songs being submitted in this year's playoff run:

Philbert Simon:

This video by the Philbert Simon Band is a parody of "Lazy Song," which I had no idea existed.  After watching this video, I don't even want to hear the original.  I like this version better, if only because they included some "Green Men" in the mix.  The song is catchy enough to work, but clearly, the Kesler jersey is a jersey foul.  If you're going to have any player jersey, please get the numbering and lettering correct.  Those little details matter.  Also, if you're going to have Green Men, you better have them in full body suits, and not just hoods and gloves in the neon green colors.  Shoes are okay, though.


This entry from the rapper known as Kyprios is titled "How the West was One."  There's no video for the man to embarrass himself with, as the only things there are the Kyprios logo (nice way of incorporating the Skate in Rink logo) and the words to the song.  Points for working the past in with the present, but not my favorite song of the bunch, though it comes fairly close.

Bodhi Jones

The song by Jones is called "We are all Canucks," and is quite possibly the catchiest song of the three.  The basis of the song includes many of this year's playoff participants, from opponents to the Canucks players themselves.  As for the video, you get to see the man himself, a few spelling errors ("Janik Hansen," "Samuelson," and "Oreskavitch"), and the worst dance moves this side of the hemisphere (which says something, since I'm a horrible dancer myself).

I'm fairly sure that I'm missing a few Canuck anthems this playoff season, so if you think there's something that should catch my eye, send them my way.


In the midst of all of the hockey celebration that will continue until the first game of the Stanley Cup Finals (when it becomes all business), I must take some time to remember the face of the Kansas City Royals.  Paul Splittorff died yesterday at 64 after a battle with melanoma and oral cancer.  For most of his 64 years on this planet, he wasn't just the winningest Royal pitcher as the older generation remembers him for, he was also the face and voice of Royals television games, as I had come to remember him by.  No matter how good or how bad the Royals were, and there were some horrible Royals teams, there was one thing I could count on: "Split" being the voice that carried the games on television.  What Denny Matthews was to the radio for the Royals, Splittorff was to the television for the team.  His service to the team began in 1968 as a pitcher drafted in the 25th round and ended as a broadcaster for the team in 2009.  Even when it became apparent that he could no longer handle the full time duties of being a broadcaster, he kept on, not letting the ailments be a story.  News of his sickness was reported a couple of weeks ago, a sign that Splittorff offered no excuses when it came to living life.  Now that he's passed on, the Good Guys have one more pitcher on their team and if they want, a man to call the games, too.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Funeral at Sea

Today, we are here to eulogize the 2010-11 San Jose Sharks.  Like many of the Sharks teams before them, they had high expectations, and like every last one of them, they didn't make the Stanley Cup Finals.  But let's not just bury them, though.  After all, it takes a special talent to choke on the expectations every year.  Whether it's to the eight seed, as the Sharks did with Anaheim in 2009, or not even bothering to show up, as the Sharks did against Chicago in 2010. So, what was the Sharks' excuse this year?  In a word: discipline.  That was the thing that eluded them against the Canucks and proved to be their downfall, but even then, this year's Sharks should have been eliminated in the first round against the Kings for playing down to their level and again versus the Red Wings in the Conference Semifinals for nearly choking away a 3-0 series lead.  And before you say anything, yes, I am perfectly aware of the Canucks' own close call in the first round.

So, the autopsy of the season could read like this: the goalie that was supposed to take them over the top in Antti Niemi, wasn't a whole lot better than the guy he replaced in Evgeni Nabokov, who himself screwed himself out of a potential starting job next year with his own contract issues in re-entering the NHL.  Niemi had a terrible first round, spectacular second round, and terrible Conference Finals.  He was inconsistent last year, which is often overlooked, since Chicago ended up winning the Stanley Cup.  Joe Thornton actually showed up for the playoffs.  The problem?  He's the captain, and with the captain's responsibilities, comes the praise and blame for the team's fate.  Same goes for Patrick Marleau, only without the captain's C.  If you could point to one person who disappeared this year, including playoffs, it has to be Dany Heatley.  At one point, he was dropped to the third line in the Vancouver series.  Defensively, the Sharks could have used Niklas Hjalmarsson, and would have had Chicago not matched the Sharks' offer in the off-season.  And then there's Ben Eager, who just can't get enough of the penalty box in Vancouver.

Getting a second seed in the playoffs should be something that the Sharks should be proud of...however, no Stanley Cup Finals again this year should really be considered a failure.  All season long, the Sharks had a chance to finally shake the label of "unable to win the big one," but like the bizarre goal that ended their season, the Sharks are once again, bitten by the same bad luck that they've had for twenty years.  As we say goodbye to the Sharks' 2010-11 season, the last word in this eulogy is that there will be Shark sushi served for the reception, so come hungry.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Last Rites for the Thrashers (?)

Today is the day that we find out the fate of the Atlanta Thrashers.  As you may (or may not) have read in some of my posts, I talk about some of the reasons for the Thrashers' failure in Atlanta.  I can assure that the picture above has nothing to do with it, or for that matter, it has absolutely nothing to do with this piece, I just wanted an excuse to post that picture.  Back to the topic at hand, I won't rehash any of what I said in my previous pieces as to why the Thrashers may soon become property of an ownership group in Winnipeg that will bring the team back to the city that lost its Jets in 1996.  However, what can be said is that though the number of fans who attended the games in Atlanta were less than all but two teams this season, you cannot expect fans to get behind a team if the ownership doesn't care about the team, and that is exactly why the Thrashers' run in the NHL was pretty much a disaster from the start.  With the exception of the 2006-07 season, the Thrashers hadn't experienced much success when it comes to even making the playoffs.  Sure, the fans deserve some blame, namely the ones who didn't show up to the games, but the reality is that the onus falls on ownership failing to give the fans a reason to come out to games.  Carolina, Nashville, and Tampa Bay have all given fans reasons to care about their teams.  What was Atlanta's pitch to get fans out to games?  Can't think of one?  Neither can I, and now, the sad saga of the Atlanta Thrashers is almost certain to be buried with the likes of the Kansas City Scouts, Colorado Rockies, California Golden Seals, Atlanta Flames, and the Cleveland Barons as teams that failed to get fans in a ten year period, or thereabouts.

Update: the official announcement of the fate of the Thrashers won't be today, according to sources.  Official word has been pushed back to a date yet to be determined.

Monday, May 23, 2011


As a fan of wrestling in the 1990's, one wrestler that seemed to be near the top in that period was Bret "The Hitman" Hart.  Those who have followed his career know about among other things, The Montreal Screwjob.  What many may not know is all of the small things that lead to that point, as well as the things that shaped not only his career, but his life, as well.  To that end, Hart has come out with his own autobiography Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling.

As with many autobiographies, the story is told through the eyes of Bret Hart, so any objectivity can be thrown out the window.  The entire story covers his early years as one of twelve children in the Hart household and goes all the way to the funeral of his father Stu Hart in 2003.  Things that happened after that get a brief mention, since according to Hart, the "Hitman" character, as well as pro wrestling as he knew it, died when Stu Hart's funeral happened.  The actual autobiography is divided into his life before the then-WWF, the WWF years, and everything from The Montreal Screwjob forward.  Bret Hart isn't quite on the level of Mick Foley or Chris Jericho when it comes to the enjoyment factor of reading autobiographies, but Hart's main strength in reading his book is about honest emotion.  From the jealousy that threatened, if not tore, the family fabric, particularly after his younger brother Owen's death, to the stories from the road in the old Stampede Wrestling days in the 1970's and 80's, Hart does his best to cover everything of importance to him.  Even the interactions with other wrestlers such as Hulk Hogan, Steve Austin, and Shawn Michaels over time are covered.  In many respects, Hart's autobiography reads more like a confessional than anything else, as he told stories about his unfaithfulness to his wife, and the constant up-and-down relationship that the marriage experienced, some due to that unfaithfulness, some not.  Some of the bitterness towards the likes of Hulk Hogan or Triple H may have a few readers calling sour grapes, while that same bitterness could be seen as confirming what they already (claim to) know.

Overall, Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling is a fascinating read, but like a roller coaster, be prepared to experience the gamut of emotions when reading.  It's not the best wrestler autobiography out there (it took me two tries to get through it), but it definitely is worth checking out.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

More Winnipeg Talk

This is not likely going away until Tuesday, so I'm obligated to once again, talk about the potential Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg move that is supposedly going to be announced.  You know all the factors behind the possible move, particularly if you have read the news reports from the various sites, so I won't go there.  However, this little bit of news should truly put to bed the idea of hockey ever getting over in Atlanta.

300 fans attended the "Save the Thrashers" rally?  Hmm, I don't know about you, but the one time I was in Atlanta, the city had a lot more than that in its population.  In the time I was there, I saw a lot of Falcons stuff, but only one family of people in Thrashers gear.  Granted, I didn't get to see as much of Atlanta as I wanted, as ProgPower stared in the afternoon on both days, but given that hockey season was starting that same weekend, and the Thrashers were coming off of a playoff appearance (the ProgPower I attended was in October 2007), wouldn't there be more than just the family in Thrashers gear, as horrible the color scheme looks?  And of all the Atlanta teams in that particular time period (as of October 2007, keep in mind), the Thrashers actually had the brightest future of all of them, as the Braves didn't make the playoffs, the Falcons had their well-documented problems with public relations, and the Hawks were still stinking up the joint.  You can say ownership wasn't what it was supposed to be, and you'd be correct, but remember that it was the same ownership that screwed the Hawks for a lot of those years.  The difference?  No real effort was ever made to sell hockey to Atlanta, which brings us to right now.  Anytime someone dies, there will be a lot of people coming out of the woodwork to offer condolences, many of them complete strangers.  Seemingly with this rally, the Thrashers weren't even given that kind of reception, which is truly the saddest statement of them all for a team that simply didn't have the support it needed nor the dignity to walk out with their heads held high.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Winnipeg Thrashers?

As much as I talk about teams who are failing at the gate and the idea of relocation, a lot of what I say is pretty much a pipe dream as it relates to all of what goes on.  However, this bit of news (speculation?) has been burning up the wires the past few hours.  And because this is all not finalized, I can point you to a source over on Yahoo.

As you have read, if you have clicked on the link, the Atlanta Thrashers are the team being talked about, and the reason: they may be moving to Winnipeg.  Now, the official word will not be announced until Tuesday, so any and all wild talk about a team going to Winnipeg will likely be flying around.  Now, for my take: it won't be the Phoenix Coyotes, as they will be in Phoenix for another year, at least.  For me, it's never too early to start those Coyotes to Kansas City rumors, and I'd love it.  However, that is a topic for another day.  What is the topic of the day is the Thrashers and the hand that is being forced.  Currently, I am in no position to truly make any remarks about the potential move until it actually happens, but the facts about Atlanta and their failed 11 years in the city do speak for themselves.  On the ice, they only made the playoffs once (2006-07), and despite all of the picks in the top-10 for most of the existence, few have panned out, and the ones that do pan out, are on other teams now.  The front office hasn't been much help, either, as that has experienced major turnover in its brief history.  As for the off-ice problems, I will direct you to Hockey Blog in Canada, who took the time to analyze a video that was made trying to defend Atlanta and why the Thrashers should stay.  Obviously, I cannot speak about attendance figures, as I have hardly seen the Thrashers on TV (a large part of that problem being their lack of playoff appearances),  and I'm generally impatient when it comes to sifting through "facts," but what I get from HBIC's analysis is that comparing attendance figures for Winnipeg and Atlanta is like comparing apples to oranges when you're looking at the hard numbers.  It's the percentage of the building capacity that in many ways, tells the real story.  I've bagged on Florida fans for being passive, and a lot of that stems from the NBA's Heat, but in comparing the two teams this past season, the Panthers are above the 80 percentile when it comes to capacity rating, whereas the Thrashers are in the 72 percentile, in terms of home numbers.  The hard figures (the attendance numbers themselves) have the Thrashers ahead of only the Coyotes and Islanders.  Going back one season earlier, the Thrashers are ahead of only the Coyotes in terms of percent rankings and were dead last in the percent ranking the year before that.  Not surprisingly, those three seasons were when the Thrashers weren't expected to even sniff a playoff chase.

Say what you will about the Thrashers in their 11 year existence, but when it comes down to it, it's plain as day that the Thrashers brass didn't make the necessary effort to try and market the team to its fans.  For all of the talk about Nashville moving, they went straight for the country music crowd.  Even Phoenix had an idea of how to market themselves early on: with a team that could win most nights.  As you know, the perpetual losses in the first round caused some people to be turned off to the Coyotes, hence the situation they're in.  Even Florida has done its best to market itself in the face of 10 seasons without a playoff run.  What has Atlanta done?  Well, they have tried the "Blueland" ploy, which for all intents and purposes, came much too late.  Had they done this within their first two years of existence, maybe we  wouldn't be talking about the Thrashers' eulogy.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pulling a Mr. Hockey

The "Gordie Howe Hat trick" is classified as scoring a goal, an assist, and getting into a fight in the same game.  Last night in Game two of the Western Conference Finals, you can add defenseman Kevin Bieksa to the list of players who have accomplished this feat.  The picture you see is Bieksa handing it to the San Jose Sharks' Patrick Marleau.  Bieksa would go on to add the go-ahead goal in the second period of the game and tally an assist, earning this "hat trick."  It's been a weird season for Bieksa, who was almost traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Nikita Filatov early in the season.  The glut of defensemen the Canucks have caused talks about Bieksa getting moved, particularly in the wake of an injury-riddled season last year.  He's been injured this season, but so has most of the Canucks blue line, to which things worked out just fine for Bieksa, who has clearly become the best blue liner this playoff season, an accomplishment that is no small matter, considering that Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins is not far behind.  Life is a funny thing, and it has worked for Bieksa and the Canucks this year...so far.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Canadien Blues


Brian Gionta wasn't asked to be the leading point scorer for the Canadiens this year, but a 46 point season that isn't good enough for most teams to even be in the top three was just that for Montreal.  His intangibles were a welcome change for the Canadiens, and he will be asked to help there again.  Want to talk about going to Hell and back?  Ask Carey Price.  All eyes were on him as the replacement for last year's playoff hero Jaroslav Halak, and though he didn't get the Canadiens out of the first round, he was clearly the best player on the Canadiens the entire season.  P.K. Subban was to be the offensive spark from the blue line the Canadiens desperately needed.  What he brought though, was an antagonizing style of play that got under opponents' skin, and he is definitely closer to superstardom than people think.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tamed Wild


Another year, another disappointing season, complete with a sputtering offense, and now, the Wild are looking for a new coach.  Mikko Koivu is still dependable, but he should not be tied for the team lead in points.  For a while, it looked like Martin Havlat would have the team lead in points to himself, but then he struggled in the second half and eventually missed the last four games of the season.  Last year's breakout star was Guillaume Latendresse, and he was supposed to provide 20-30 goals this year.  However, injuries derailed his season, as he only played 11 games.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

One Step Closer to the Stanley Cup Finals

So, this blog was held captive yesterday, due to maintenance, so I couldn't put up my predictions for the Conference Finals like I wanted.  So, before the games begin tonight, here we go:


Both teams will have had plenty of time to rest and a lot of time to make up something for animosity purposes.  Tampa Bay has had a new hero in Sean Bergenheim, who leads the team in goals this playoff season.  As long as he continues to pull off his Mike Cammalleri impersonation to a tee, Tampa Bay will  be Finals bound.  Boston's playoff run is thanks to David Krejci.  Missing last year's run was a key factor to Boston choking it all away last year.  A healthy Krejci makes all the difference in the world for Boston this year.

Prediction: Tampa Bay in seven


Both teams almost lost 3-0 leads in the playoffs, and both teams are one step away from the Stanley Cup Finals.  San Jose desperately needs Dany Heatley to show up for this series.  Of all the offensive stars, he's the only one who hasn't shown up in the playoffs.  Vancouver has Ryan Kesler, who has officially announced his arrival to superstardom this year.  The Nashville series only cemented his status as a superstar, and he's great at interview bombing.

Prediction: Vancouver in six


This is never a good thing to wake up to, particularly since it is the morning of another exciting round of hockey, but it has to be said.  I'll get to my predictions later today, but this morning is a time to remember one of the most imposing (physically) enforcers in recent hockey history.

Last night, in his Minneapolis apartment, Derek Boogaard was found dead.  The reasons for his death won't be discovered for another few days, but the death itself is quite shocking, since he was in the prime of his career at 28.  Known more for his fighting than his offense (remember when he scored after some 100 games or so without a goal?), Boogaard was a fan favorite in his time with the Minnesota Wild before moving on to the New York Rangers prior to this season.  He didn't have much of an impact, missing the second half of the season.  His lasting legacy will be that of a guy you didn't want to drop gloves with and a great guy off the ice, as the Minnesota Wild fans will tell you.  Just look around when you go to a Wild game, and you will see quite a few jerseys with Boogaard and his number 24 on them.

It's never a good feeling to write these things, as no one really wants to see people pass on, but I know that Boogaard will be dropping gloves with the Big Man in the sky and chatting it up with him afterwards.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Not Quite Royalty


This was supposed to be the year the Los Angeles Kings took the next step in its youth movement.  Instead, the youth movement stalled and this year ended up just like last year: out in six in the first round.  The difference?  Anze Kopitar wasn't available for the playoff run after getting injured late in the season.  Before that, he was clearly the team's best player, leading them with 73 points.  Jonathan Quick is still the starter, but not by a lot.  Next season will be the most telling as to whether he can still be the starter on the Kings, particularly with Jonathan Bernier still lurking about.  Wayne Simmonds contributed 30 points in 80 games, a respectable number, but at -2, he will have to step his game up if he wants to be more than a serviceable third line player.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Noise Severe

A Noise Severe is The Gathering DVD that would turn out to be Anneke Van Giersbergen's last appearance with the band, and like every other Gathering live show, it is truly a sight to see and hear.  Shot in Santiago, Chile in 2007, the entire set list covers everything from Mandylion to Home, the 2006 release.  If you've never seen The Gathering live, in person or on DVD, then you're in for a treat, as the band gives the Chilean crowd a performance worthy of their status.  Even though the band has drifted away from the metal scene with its more experimental style, the vocals have always been the constant, and it truly shines here.  I still haven't wrapped my head around the fact that The Gathering has a different vocalist...perhaps that will change when I do finally get around to hearing the last album The West Pole.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Requiem for Nashville

The image you see has absolutely nothing to do with the eulogy that I am about to deliver for the Nashville Predators.  Actually, it does, since Preds fans have been known to throw catfish onto the ice after a Preds goal, but that's beside the point.  Where was I?  Oh yeah, today, we are gathered here today to say goodbye to the 2010-2011 Nashville Predators.

This year's Predators were unlike every other team in years past.  Sure, they play quite possibly the most boring style of hockey west of New Jersey, and sure, naming five Predators players can be quite a task (before this year's playoffs).  However, Nashville reached new highs with an appearance in the second round this year and quite possibly the most complete team in franchise history.  All of this was made possible thanks to consistency in the front office and behind the bench, things the Atlanta Thrashers and Columbus Blue Jackets could learn from.  From the very beginning in 1998, the Predators have been GM David Poile, coach Barry Trotz, and the first ever draft pick in David Legwand.  If you were to ask me how the Predators could have competed for the Stanley Cup in any season, it begins with the players buying into Trotz's coaching philosophies, no matter who suits up in a Predators uniform and even after thirteen years behind the bench.  The current Predators can hang their hat on Pekka Rinne, who could very well be a much taller version of Dominik Hasek in that Rinne can steal a few games for them, and almost has to most of the time.  Don't forget about Shea Weber (if he resigns with the team) and his menacing slapshot from the blueline or his defense partner Ryan Suter, the foundation for a defense first mentality that builds towards the frontlines.  Want offense?  Patric Hornqvist has posted back-to-back 30 goal seasons, and combine that with Mike Fisher, who could very well be Nashville's first face of the franchise (being married to Carrie Underwood has its benefits), and playoff breakout Joel Ward, and Nashville has all the makings of a great team.  Alas, it wasn't meant to be this year, as they just simply ran into a team that was more talented than them.  It was never about heart for Nashville, for they have always had that, even when the arena was less than capacity, which is the truest testament to the team and the front office.

As I wrap up this eulogy, let us remember the good times this team had this year, and the way they went out, like real champions.  Nashville Predators, you were a worthy opponent, but the talent level was simply not enough to overcome a team that has all the motivation in the world to win it all.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Merry Go Round Stops Here

It just wouldn't be a Philadelphia Flyers season without the annual merry-go-round that is the goaltending situation.  And on Friday, that ride was unplugged until October.  The Flyers were unceremoniously swept out of the playoffs by the Boston Bruins...one post-season later.  Granted, this ride was running on all cylinders last year, when they managed to come all the way back from a 3-0 series hole, but you had to know that at some point, it was going to be shut down.  Little did anyone know that the team that blew the 3-0 series lead to the Flyers...would be the one to have that honor a year later.  The goalies in this year's merry-go-round?  Brian Boucher, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Michael Leighton.  Boucher was the guy that always seemed to have one bright, shining moment, but for the most part, never truly put it together consistently in his career.  On any other team, he would be a backup goaltender, but on the Flyers, he's a part-time starter.  For a while, Bobrovsky was in the discussion for the Calder Trophy, but then his first playoff game happened, and he was pretty much relegated to the bench, only to be anointed the starter in two of the games against Boston.  And the desperation move by the Flyers?  Michael Leighton, who was in the minors for most of the season when he wasn't hurt, and he started a couple of games in the playoffs, yet showed none of the 2010 post-season form.

Why the perpetual revolving door?  Only the guys in the Flyers' front office can answer that, but in the Flyers' history since their inaugural season in 1967, the only names in goaltending that have mattered at all have been Bernie Parent, Pelle Lindbergh, and Ron Hextall, and the last one on that list last played for them in the late 90's.  Here's another thing to ponder, as the door gets shut on the Flyers' season: the players that have suited up in goal for the Flyers since 2000-01?  Roman Chechmanek, Brian Boucher (twice), Maxime Ouellet, Neil Little (twice), Robert Esche, Sean Burke, Jeff Hackett, Antero Niitymaki, Martin Biron, Martin Houle, Michael Leighton (twice), Johan Backlund, Ray Emery, Jeremy Duchesne, and Sergei Bobrovsky.

That's fifteen goalies in a ten-year span that have at some point, suited up as a starting goaltender for the Flyers, and three of those have had more than one stint as a starter.  Compare that to every Stanley Cup winning team in that span, and the closest anyone could get to the Flyers' situation would be the 2007 Anaheim Ducks, who had two good goaltenders, and usually solve that problem by sending one of them to another team.  The Flyers, well, they don't truly have that one goaltender who you can say is the definitive starter or could start for another team, and until the goaltending situation is solved, Flyers fans will be on the merry-go-round again.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Lightning Strikes...7 Years Later

Yesterday, I gave my reasons for Washington's collapse against the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Now, the other side of that argument: my reasons for why Tampa Bay could make the Stanley Cup Finals.  So, without further ado, let's get to it:

*Winning hockey begins with the man in the net, otherwise known as the goaltender.  Watch any of the Stanley Cup Finals from the last two decades or so, and more often than not, you will see a team with a good goaltender, the 2010 Flyers notwithstanding.  What does this have to do with the Lightning?  Well, if you remember their 2004 Stanley Cup team, they got clutch goaltending from Nikolai Khabibulin.  This year's goaltender, Dwayne Roloson has been replicating that performance, and has solved the goaltending quandary that Dan Ellis and Mike Smith could not answer this season.

*Quick, name the Lightning's leading goal scorer. *waits a few seconds* Time's up.  Now, would you believe me if I told you that the leading goal scorer on the team is Sean Bergenheim?  No?  I don't blame you.  However, as the Penguins and Capitals can tell you, the Lightning is more than just Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, and Vincent Lecavalier.  The Islanders cast-off has been the best player on the team not named Dwayne Roloson this post-season, and whoever the Lightning face in the Conference Finals had better account for one more option on offense.  Now, that's a scary thought.

*Speaking of Stamkos, St. Louis, and Lecavalier, that trio has begun to show signs of life recently, particularly Stamkos.  Until game 5 against Pittsburgh, Stamkos had not been on the score sheet.  Meanwhile, both St. Louis and Lecavalier have shown that winning hockey never goes away, no matter how long you've been away.  That attitude and the know-how both possess from the 2004 run are now being passed through the rest of the team, which explains why the likes of Bergenheim and Steve Downie are major contributors, and why the kids like Stamkos and Victor Hedman aren't scared off by the pressure.

*Remember when I told you that the Tampa Bay blue line would be their downfall?  Well, there is no accounting for commitment to a system, and coach Guy Boucher has his team buying into it.  From day one, the Lightning have bought into the system, and now, that is beginning to bear fruit, particularly with the likes of Nate Thompson, Mattias Ohlund, and Hedman.

Now, can the Lightning make it to the Stanley Cup Finals?  I won't bet against them, but the race to be the Eastern Conference representative suddenly looks open, and Tampa Bay wants to be that team.  It could happen.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Another Disappointing Defeat

It's Puck Night tonight, but there won't be any more of those for the Washington Capitals as of last night.  It's one thing to lose to the eighth seeded Montreal Canadiens in seven games, as they did last year, but now for something much more humiliating: being swept out of the playoffs by your division rival Tampa Bay Lightning. Yes, you read that correctly, and no, it wasn't supposed to be like this, as any Caps fan will tell you.  So, what went wrong?  As I see it, it goes along the lines of:

*The Capitals' commitment to defense resulted in them not generating enough offense.  Before you say anything else, it should be noted that the Capitals were trying to actually add defense to their offensive firepower.  However, along the way, Alex Ovechkin didn't have the help that he normally did, with Niklas Backstrom disappearing this post-season, and Mike Green doing his usual disappearing act.  Ovechkin can carry a team if needed, but even the best need help, and the Caps just simply didn't have it.

*Goaltending showed its age, as in the lack of experience finally caught up to Michal Neuvirth.  Even though he played well in the first round, it was against the New York Rangers, who lack considerable talent.  Against Tampa Bay, this lack of experience was exposed, particularly since the bulk of the scoring came from the role players on the Lightning.  The Dominic Moores and Sean Bergenheims of the world were arguably the second best players on the team, behind Dwayne Roloson (more on him later).

*Center remains a sore spot for the Capitals, as the search for a second line center continues.  Jason Arnott was brought in to be that guy, but he's not a long term solution.  Of course, the real problem goes back to Backstrom disappearing in the playoffs, leaving Arnott to be the most productive center on the team.  Again, two productive centers is a good thing to have, and the Caps just didn't have that this post-season.

*Dwayne Roloson.  Yes, he's 41, and yes, he had been toiling for some really bad teams lately, but when there's a team like the Lightning in front of him, he can make a team's blue line group look good.  He's proven his ability to steal a game for the Lightning this season, as the Pittsburgh Penguins will tell you in game 7.

High expectations for the Capitals have once again, weighed the team down in dismal fashion.  It will be another long off-season for the Capitals, as they have to go back to the drawing board, potentially with a new head coach.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Zombies and Power Tools

The latest bloody offering from Alan Spencer is a fairy straight-forward story of zombies and power tools titled, you guessed it, Zombies and Power Tools.  The premise of the story is that Sam Kolke, the owner of the local cemetery, gets attacked by four corpses.  The corpses leave a message in blood of "CONFESS MURDERER" and soon, the local sheriff gets involved.  Before long, Sam, Bruce (the sheriff), and Walter are all having to keep their secret from their loved ones, with Bruce going as far as to cover up any evidence of the zombie attacks.  However, the newly revived corpses remain persistent in their quest to coerce confessions from the trio, eventually resorting to killing the townsfolk by unusual means: with miter saws, wood chippers, and other forms of power tools.  Do the trio confess their murders and live or do they die with their secrets?  The only way to find out is to read on.

For the first quarter of the story, there isn't much in the way of gore, as Zombies and Power Tools decides to build its story through Sam, Bruce, and Walter, as well as Sam's son Ryan and his wife Stacy.  Throughout the story, references to Lillie Table and Frank Mueller are made, and they will be important figures to the story, as the reader will figure out.  When the first murders happen, everything seems to snowball from there, and soon, the entire town suffers at the hands of the zombies, which grow in numbers as the story progresses through unusual means.  No detail of how this happens is spared, and though it is unbelievable to many, logic does not apply in horror, movie or book form.  The story itself is somewhat plodding, particularly the the first half, but like a puzzle, the reader will feel compelled to complete it just to see what the finish looks like.  Want blood?  Zombies and Power Tools has plenty, and it doesn't hold back.  Recommended if you like mindless violence, but don't expect any part of the story to make sense.  Then again, if you're a horror fan, you expect things to not make sense.

Golfing Again


It's been a decade since the Florida Panthers have made the playoffs, and it doesn't look any better this offseason.  Tomas Vokoun had an off year by his standards, but given the talent in front of him, even the best can't overcome that.  He is likely playing elsewhere next year, since Jakob Markstrom is knocking on the door to start.  Michael Frolik put up decent numbers before being traded to Chicago at the trade deadline.  He continued that good scoring pace when the playoffs rolled around until the team's elimination in seven games.  And the award to most boneheaded move goes to the Panthers for sending Michael Grabner down to the minors, only to have the New York Islanders claim him before he could clear waivers.  All Grabner did was score 30+ goals for an Islanders team that has a future ahead...if they can clear their back end situation.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Keep Drilling


I thought the Oilers would go through their growing pains.  However, it wasn't supposed to end up with Taylor Hall missing the last 17 games or so for a fighting injury, or Ales Hemsky missing half the season to injury.  Before being injured, Hemsky was on a near point-a-game pace, with 42 points in 47 games.  Goaltending is still as muddied now as it was in the beginning.  Nikolai Khabibulin had a 10-32-4 record and a 3.40 GAA.  And no one is for sure if Devan Dubnyk can be a starter, but there's no better time than next season to find out.  Jordan Eberle was my pick to be a breakout of the three heralded rookies, and while he did lead the team with 43 points, he also missed a few games to injury.  In fact, the top 4 offensive leaders (Eberle, Hemsky, Sam Gagner, and Hall) all missed time to injury, so if all can stay healthy next year, I think there's a light at the end of the tunnel for them.  Of course, having the first overall pick in this year's draft won't hurt, either.