Tuesday, April 30, 2013

NHL Eastern Conference Playoffs Preview

(1) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (8) New York Islanders

Even without Sidney Crosby for a period of time, the Penguins still have talent.  Evgeni Malkin is the reigning Hart Trophy winner and is complimented by the likes of James Neal, Kris Letang, and Jarome Iginla.  Want toughness?  Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray provide that.  Marc-Andre Fleury had a shaky playoffs last year and is out to prove that he is still an elite goaltender.

The Islanders are in the playoffs for the first time since 2007, and John Tavares is a candidate for the Hart Trophy this year.  Having a good wingman in Matt Moulson gives the Islanders a one-two punch.  Their defense isn't that great, but a lot of those deficiences can be covered by great goaltending, and that is what Evgeni Nabokov provides.

Prediction: Pittsburgh in 5

(2) Montreal Canadiens vs. (7) Ottawa Senators

Montreal's strength is in the back end, where Carey Price is the backbone.  PK Subban is turning into a Norris Trophy candidate, and that makes the Canadiens a better team.  Offensively, the Canadiens get contributions from the likes of Alex Galchenyuk, Michael Ryder, and Brian Gionta, but it is the team chemistry that has the Canadiens where they are.

Ottawa had injury issues throughout the season, but it now seems that the Sens are finally getting healthy again.  Craig Anderson was having a Vezina Trophy winning season before injuries hit, and both Jared Cowen and Erik Karlsson were not supposed to be in the lineup for the playoffs, but both are here, and that gives the Sens a big body and an offensive dynamo.  Jason Spezza could return soon, but in the meantime, the kids such as Jakob Silfverberg and Mika Zibanejad, as well as Kyle Turris, are filling in nicely.  Leadership is no issue with Daniel Alfredsson around.

Prediction: Ottawa in 7

(3) Washington Capitals vs. (6) New York Rangers

Washington struggled early, but they turned it around when Alex Ovechkin became his usual self.  For the Caps to win, he will have to put the team on his back, as Martin Erat and Niklas Backstrom are the only true options on offense.  Defense was a work in progress, and certainly, the goaltending was an issue for a fair part of the season, but Braden Holtby seized the starting role, and the Caps are better for it.

The Rangers were less than the sum of their parts, as only Henrik Lundqvist played to expectations on a consistent basis.  Rick Nash came on late in the season, but Brad Richards didn't play as well as last season. The Rangers are hopeful Marc Staal returns this series, as the blue line can never have enough warm bodies to block shots.

Prediction: Washington in 7

(4) Boston Bruins vs. (5) Toronto Maple Leafs

The Bruins struggled down the stretch, and it cost them a division title.  Tuukka Rask played well for much of the season, but the playoffs are a different animal, but he did play well when he started in the 2010 playoffs.  Offensively, Tyler Seguin, Nathan Horton, and David Krejci are good options, but a consistent Milan Lucic will be a key to everything.  When he's on, he's the best player out there, but that isn't always the case, as he can disappear for stretches.  Zdeno Chara will have to be the dominant defenseman that he's been if the blue line is to have a chance.

Much of Toronto's success this season can be attributed to James Reimer, who seized the starting spot in goal.  Defensively, the Leafs are good, with Dion Phaneuf leading the way.  Offensively, Phil Kessel and a healthy Joffrey Lupul are options, but they need Nazem Kadri to snap out of a recent funk if they want to advance.

Prediction: Boston in 6

Monday, April 29, 2013

NHL Playoffs Preview: Western Conference

The NHL playoffs begin tomorrow, and since the Western Conference is getting that early start, they will get the coverage first.  Eastern Conference picks will come later.


(1) Chicago Blackhawks vs. (8) Minnesota Wild

The Blackhawks were the best team from start to finish in the regular season.  Patrick Kane is the team's best option on offense, but don't count out the likes of Marian Hossa or Jonathan Toews.  The second ranked offense (behind only Pittsburgh) is complimented by the best defense in the league, and it begins with the blue line.  Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are a top flight duo and are backed by the likes of Niklas Hjalmarsson, who is quietly becoming a premier stay-at-home defenseman.  The question mark at the beginning of the season was goaltending, and it remains a question, though Corey Crawford continues to silence critics with his bounce-back year and Ray Emery ensures that the Blackhawks don't miss a beat.

The Wild had high expectations, with Zach Parise and Ryan Suter coming over in the off-season.  The offense didn't quite get the spaek that the Wild were hoping for, and at times, team chemistry was an issue, as the team struggled to make the playoffs in a season where they were expected to win the Northwest Division.  Still, the Wild will have the backing of the home fans for a couple of games, which should count for a win or two simply because of the energy.

Prediction: Blackhawks in 6

(2) Anaheim Ducks vs. (7) Detroit Red Wings

Anaheim has had a year to adjust to coach Bruce Boudreau's style, and it has paid off, as Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, the oft maligned duo, have had great years.  The real story is the goaltending of Jonas Hiller and Victor Fasth, who have turned a question mark into a period.  Depth is still an issue, as the team is still relatively top heavy, but they won't be pushed around with a rock solid blue line.

Detroit had to win on the last day to get in, and with blue line questions lingering, there is no reason for Detroit to advance out of the first round.  Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are still there on offense, but goaltender Jimmy Howard will have to steal some games for Detroit to have a chance.

Prediction: Anaheim in 5

(3) Vancouver Canucks vs. (6) San Jose Sharks

Vancouver struggled for most of the season, as they bounced back between Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo, but Schneider has seized the starting role lately, and with the team getting healthy again (outside of David Booth), the Canucks are looking more like their 2011 team.

The Sharks also struggled for much of the season, but Antti Niemi has been the reason for the team getting into the playoffs.  He's often overlooked, due to the fact that he just isn't spectacular, but when he's on, he provides the Sharks a peace of mind, even when the team struggles to score (paging Patrick Marleau).

Prediction: Vancouver in 5

(4) St. Louis Blues vs. (5) Los Angeles Kings

The Blues had issues in the early going, with Jake Allen at one point being the starting goaltender.  Brian Elliot seems to have turned it around, regaining the starting goaltender spot, though, and the Blues will undoubtedly have revenge on their mind from last year's sweep at the hand of the Kings.  Alex Pietrangelo will need to step it up if he is to become an elite D-man.

Los Angeles had their consistency issues, especially with goaltending.  However, they are also finding their groove at the right time, and that begins with Jonathan Quick.  Remember, the Kings did not have home ice advantage at all last year, and they start without that home ice advantage.  Jeff Carter will be counted upon to provide clutch goals once again.

Prediction: Los Angeles in 6

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Black Sunday in the NHL

While I'm waiting for the NHL playoffs to sort itself out (there's still seeding and matchups to worry about, as Ottawa takes on Boston tonight in a game postponed by the Boston Marathon bombings), today is not a good day if your name is Joe Sacco or Joe Nieuwendyk.

Sacco was canned as the coach of the Colorado Avalanche after a 130-134-30 record in four seasons with one playoff appearance in 2010.  Odds are general manager Greg Sherman will soon be joining him in the unemployment line, as no replacement was named.  After a promising start to his coaching career in the NHL, Sacco failed to lead the Avs to a playoff appearance, with the final straw being a rant from J.S. Giguere in the midst of the team's slide in the last half of this season.  Sherman is almost certainly going to get axed, as he was at the helm for some bad trades, ranging from Erik Johnson and Jay McClement for Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Stewart to Semyon Varlamov for a first and second round pick in 2012.

As for Nieuwendyk, he was relieved of his duties as general manager of the Dallas Stars.  At the helm since 2009, Nieuwendyk made his fair share of bad moves, such as trading James Neal for Alex Goligoski and trading Steve Ott for Derek Roy.  Seemingly, the Stars were without a clear direction as far as what they wanted to do, and fair or not, that falls on Nieuwendyk.  No word on the future of Glen Gulutzan, who was his hand-picked coach after canning Marc Crawford after the 2010-11 season.

It's been a major fall for two teams that dominated much of the late 90's and early 2000's as far as making the playoffs are concerned.  Whoever comes in to try and revive those franchises will undoubtedly need to know what they want to do and have a clear plan in getting there.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Winterhawks Weekly: Ed Chynoweth Trophy, We're Coming for You!

I haven't posted a Winterhawks Weekly since the playoff series dictates a lot of the updates, but now, I can post something today.  Despite getting off to a bad start to the week, a 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Kamloops on Tuesday, the Winterhawks shut out the Blazers the following day 3-0 to get their first chance to clinch a spot in the WHL Finals.  The Winterhawks made the most of that opportunity on Friday, sending Kamloops home 4-1 and in the process, will meet either the Edmonton Oil Kings or the Calgary Hitmen (Edmonton is currently up 3-2 in their series).  Ty Rattie took home the Western Conference playoff MVP honors.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

All the Staals in One Building

Just when you think the Carolina Hurricanes couldn't get all the Staals, the news that the youngest Staal will make his NHL debut tonight against the New York Rangers makes it possible.  Jared Staal was recalled from Charlotte of the AHL and will likely be on a line with Jordan Staal on the wing.  In case you're keeping score, that means oldest brother Eric, third brother Jordan, and youngest brother Jared will all be suiting up for the Hurricanes tonight.  Second oldest brother Marc is on the New York Rangers, but will not be suiting up, despite practicing for the first time since an eye injury suffered on March 5.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Getting Wild in Iowa?

The news (courtesy of Hockey Blog in Canada and Icethetics) that's been circulating around is the Minnesota Wild's AHL affiliate in Houston will be relocating to Des Moines, IA.  Out will be the Aeros and in will be the Iowa Wild.  That's right, the AHL club known as the Houston Aeros (until the conclusion of the Calder Cup) will be calling Iowa home starting next season and will be playing in the Wells Fargo Center in Des Moines.  As you can see from the logo, it doesn't look all that much different from the parent club's alternate jersey.  And as you will see from the picture below, the jersey design leaves a lot to be desired:

via Twitter
While this move does make travel shorter (and possibly easier) for the call-ups and demotions to be made, one wonders if the Minnesota Wild could have done a little more to distinguish the minor league team a little better.  I'm not sold on it, personally, but we'll see how it looks on the ice.

Monday, April 22, 2013

USHL Playoffs Update

I realize in the midst of the WHL playoffs and the upcoming NHL playoffs (Vancouver is in and can clinch the Northwest Division as soon as tonight) that I have largely ignored the USHL.  The Clark Cup tournament began last week, and so far, we can expect the Dubuque Fighting Saints and Youngstown Phantoms in the Eastern Conference finals after they disposed of the Muskegon Lumberjacks and Green Bay Gamblers, respectively.  The Western Conference is less certain at this point, but the Waterloo Black Hawks can send the Fargo Force home, as they are up 2-1 in the best of five series.  The Lincoln Stars and Sioux Falls Stampede are nodded at two a piece with a deciding fifth game that will determine one of the spots in the Western Conference finals.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Playoff Bound...At Last

The year is 2004, and the NHL was entering a bitter dispute that would cost the league an entire season.  That was also the last time the Toronto Maple Leafs made the playoffs...until now.  A 4-1 win tonight against Ottawa ensures the Leafs a spot in the playoffs and in the process, gives them a cushion on their Ontario rival for playoff seeding.  So, how did the Leafs make the playoffs this year?  It begins in goal, where James Reimer has seized the starting goaltender spot after a rough 2011-12 season that saw him battle injuries and inconsistency.  A major question mark heading into this season, Reimer has played well enough to get the nod over Ben Scrivens most nights.  Another reason for the Leafs' success is the emergence of Nazem Kadri, who until this season, was never really given a chance to shine under the Brian Burke regime.  This year, he has been the center the Leafs wanted when they took him in the first round in 2009, and despite struggling of late, the ceiling for him is high and on a line with Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul, the Leafs' offense could be set for a while.  Kadri's emergence has also helped define the hierarchy of the Leafs' centers, with Tyler Bozak thriving in his natural role of third line center and allowed for James van Riemsdyk to thrive in his natural position on the wing.  Defensively, the Leafs aren't the strongest, but having Dion Phaneuf back there takes some of the pressure off some of the younger players looking to make a name for themselves.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

WHL Conference Finals Predictions

The two matchups that will determine who squares off for the Ed Chynoweth Trophy promise to be good, as the teams just plain do not like one another.

(1) Edmonton Oil Kings vs. (3) Calgary Hitmen

The Oil Kings dominated the league with a stingy defense and continue to do so in the playoffs.  The Hitmen are equally up to the task despite not putting up the eye-popping numbers.  Laurent Brossoit and Chris Driedger are the backbones of their respective squads and while the Oil Kings have the more well-known players, the Hitmen just get the job done.  Calgary had the tougher road to get here, as they had to beat two defensively stout teams, but the Oil Kings have something that Swift Current and Red Deer do not, and that is offense.  And of course, there's the provincial bragging rights on the line in addition to a spot in the finals.

Prediction: Oil Kings in 6

(1) Portland Winterhawks vs. (3) Kamloops Blazers

There's no question the Winterhawks were the best team on offense, and certainly, their defense was equally adept.  The Blazers can match the Winterhawks on offense, but of concern is their defense, particularly since they can be quite streaky on offense and given their injuries to Colin Smith and Tim Bozon, will need the likes of Brendan Ranford and Kale Kessy to step up once again.  This will be the Winterhawks' toughest test yet, as the Blazers will be looking for revenge for last year's ouster in the Conference semis.

Prediction: Winterhawks in 7

Monday, April 15, 2013

WHL Conference Finals Breakdown: Offense

Today's WHL playoff breakdown takes a look at offense.


The fourth ranked offense in the regular season, the Oil Kings have 44 goals so far in the playoffs and are generally underrated when it comes to this category.  Led by the likes of Henrik Samuelsson, Michael St. Croix, and Stephane Legault (the team's leading scorer in the playoffs), it's easy to see why the Oil Kings had little trouble against Kootenay and Medicine Hat.


The Winterhawks led the league in the regular season in goals scored, and their playoff run (50 goals so far) mirrors that success.  In the regular season, the three leading scorers in the league were Winterhawks (Brendan Leipsic, Nic Petan, and Ty Rattie), yet there is so much more than that trio, as the likes of Oliver Bjorkstrand, Chase De Leo, Taylor Peters, and Taylor Leier provide secondary scoring.  Their defensemen are just as proficient at scoring as they are at keeping the opposing team from scoring, as Troy Rutkowski and Seth Jones put up great numbers.


The Blazers boast some premier scoring with JC Lipon, Colin Smith, and Tim Bozon leading the way.  However, they are prone to streaky play, as 261 regular season goals can attest and 41 playoff goals at this stage is another indicator.  However, getting production from Brendan Ranford and Kale Kessy has helped offset some missed time from Smith and Bozon.  The Blazers will need to get continued production from players not named Lipon or Smith.


The Hitmen were a few goals better than the Blazers in the regular season, but have only amassed 30 goals in the playoffs.  To be fair, they were Swift Current and Red Deer, two teams that were tough to score on.  While there is no go-to guy on the team, timely goals from the likes of Cody Sylvester, Brooks Macek, and Victor Rask put the Hitmen in position to knock off the reigning Ed Chynoweth Champions this series.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

WHL Conference Finals Breakdown: Defense

Yesterday, I took a look at the goalies for the remaining teams in the WHL playoffs.  Today, it's all about the guys in front of them: the defensemen.


Led by captain Griffin Reinhart, the Oil Kings are the only team to have given up single digits in goals to this point, which would obviously put them as the best team in the playoffs defensively.  They were also the best team defensively in the regular season, so their defensive stand is not a flash in the pan.  Also on the Oil Kings blue line are second-generation players Keegan Lowe (son of Kevin Lowe, who played for the Oilers and Rangers in his career) and David Musil (son of Frank, a former Calgary Flame).  Reinhart himself is the son of ex-Flame Paul Reinhart and is the middle brother of Max (a current prospect in the Flames system) and Sam (Kootenay Ice star who was recently named captain for next season).


Lost in the offensive juggernaut that is the Portland Winterhawks is the team's equally stout defense.  Led by Seth Jones, Troy Rutkowski, and Derrick Pouliot, the Winterhawks ran away with the U.S. Division and the Scotty Munro Trophy in the regular season.  Despite being somewhat erratic on defense (which explains why they have given up the third most goals, 19, of the remaining teams), the Winterhawks have enough talent to win every shootout if they must, but are also capable of winning the 1-0 grinders if needed, as evidenced by giving up the second fewest goals in the regular season.


Chris Driedger gets the majority of the press, but the guys in front of him are just as good, if not unheralded.  Led by Spencer Humphries, the Hitmen make up for the lack of scoring (that will be explained tomorrow) with timely play.  They've given up the second fewest goals in the playoffs of the remaining teams, but they also played against offensively challenged teams in Swift Current and Red Deer, so how they will be able to handle Edmonton is the challenge of the day.


The Blazers are led by the likes of Tyler Hansen and Joel Edmundson, but with 28 goals against in the playoffs, the Blazers are the worst of the remaining teams.  To be fair, they did play Victoria and a Kelowna team that never quit despite the injuries and having to come back from a 3-0 series deficit against Seattle in the opening round, so Kamloops has definitely been tested.  Their defense is underrated, as their forwards get all the press despite the team giving up the fourth fewest goals in the league.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

WHL Conference Finals Breakdown: Goalies

With the Conference Finals in the WHL not starting until Thursday and all but one playoff spot in all of the leagues (WHL, OHL, and QMJHL) spoken for, that means there is plenty of time to talk up what to look for in the WHL conference finals match-ups.  It begins with goaltenders:


Laurent Brossoit is the starter on the reigning Ed Chynoweth champions and the current leader with a 0.97 GAA.  Of the goalies left, he also has only one loss to his name in the playoffs so far (game 2 against Kootenay in the opening round).  The Calgary Flames prospect is backed up by Tristan Jarry, with who he combined to lead the Oil Kings in giving up the least amount of goals in the regular season.


Mac Carruth is the starter for the Winterhawks and though he didn't start the season with the Winterhawks (he began the season in the AHL's Rockford Ice Hogs), he went on to post a 2.06 GAA in the regular season on the way to breaking team records.  His 1.74 GAA in the playoffs is just a little higher than Chris Driedger's numbers (more on him later), but he really dominated the series against Spokane in the Conference semi-finals.  The Chicago Blackhawks prospect is backed up by Brendan Burke, and together, the duo helped lead the Winterhawks to the second lowest goals against totals, behind only Edmonton.


Chris Driedger is the Hitmen's go-to guy between the pipes and was one of the best goaltenders in a Central Division that was loaded with great goaltending.  What made Driedger stand out from the likes of Laurent Brossoit, Cam Lanigan, and Patrik Bartosak was the fact that he was a rock for a Hitmen team that was middle of the road compared to the likes of both Edmonton and Portland, a defensive and offensive juggernaut, respectively.  His 1.73 GAA in the playoffs is just a step better than Mac Carruth, and he did a great job in the series against Red Deer.  The Ottawa Senators' draft pick in 2012 is backed up by Mack Shields.


Cole Cheveldae got off to a torrid start, which was reflected in the Blazers' hot October that saw them earn a point in every game to start the season up to early November.  His 2.38 GAA in the regular season was pretty good, and had it not been for a momentary slip in the team's production combined with Kelowna's home mastery in the middle of the season, the Blazers would have repeated as B.C. Division champions.  Of the four remaining, Cheveldae is the weakest goaltender with a 2.60 GAA, and against the likes of the Winterhawks, he will have to come up big because the Blazers' offense has the ability to match goal for goal. Taran Kozun is the back up.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Oil Kings and Hitmen: the Battle of Alberta continues...

With the Calgary Hitmen closing out their series last night against the Red Deer Rebels, that means the WHL will be on break until Thursday, when the Hitmen travel to Edmonton to face the Oil Kings in the Eastern Conference finals.  If you know your Alberta history, you know the cities of Edmonton and Calgary do not like one another, and with the NHL's Oilers and Flames rivalry not being what it was in the 80's and 90's, this is the perfect time for the Oil Kings and Hitmen to become a premier rivalry in the province.  Like Kamloops and Portland in the Western Conference, there is a lot at stake, and throw in good ol' fashioned hatred, and the WHL playoffs just got more interesting.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Winterhawks Weekly: Get out the Brooms!

The Portland Winterhawks wasted little time in disposing of the Spokane Chiefs this week, as they took a 3-1 decision on Tuesday and shut them out last night 5-0.  All of this means that the Winterhawks sweep the series and will have eight days to rest.  If you need an answer as to why the Winterhawks won so easily, the answer is in net, where Mac Carruth only gave up three goals the entire series, with two shutouts.  The Winterhawks offense was on, as well, and it will need to be on again in the Conference finals that will begin in eight days.

Their opponent will also have eight days, as the Kamloops Blazers beat the Kelowna Rockets in four straight.  The Blazers will undoubtedly be seeking revenge for last year, when the Winterhawks ousted them in seven games in the Conference semi-finals last year.

If Calgary wins their series today (they're up 3-1 currently), that will mean an entire week will be about hyping the matchups, meaning the Winterhawks/Blazers and Oil Kings/Hitmen.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Winterhawks Weekly: The End is Just the Beginning

This past week, the Winterhawks closed out the first round series against a game Everett Silvertips on Monday and had to wait until Kelowna made their comeback on Wednesday to figure out they were going to face the Spokane Chiefs.  I will admit that the Chiefs were the last team I wanted to see in the playoffs, as they play the Winterhawks tough and had a few quality wins this season against them.  Imagine my surprise when the Winterhawks came out swinging on Friday with a 7-2 win behind a Ty Ratte hat trick and a 3-0 shutout on Saturday to take a 2-0 series lead heading into Spokane.  Tuesday and Wednesday will be in Spokane and if needed, game 5 will be in Portland on Saturday, game 6 in Spokane on Monday, and game 7 in Portland on the 17th.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Winter Classic: Take Two

With the lockout wiping out the 2013 Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs, that means there was no outdoor classic this year.  Next year will be different, as the match up will be...that's right, the match up we were supposed to have this year, as the Red Wings and Maple Leafs will meet in the 2014 Winter Classic.  As for what the teams will be wearing, there were some leaks of the respective uniforms, and now those are confirmed, and they look good.  Above, you will see the Red Wings' look, which features the captain/alternate captain designation on the left sleeve.

As for what the Maple Leafs will wear for the game, Lanny Macdonald (middle left) is wearing that jersey below:

As you can see, the alumni game will also take place, and Darryl Sittler and Kris Draper (the two on the right) are donning the designs for that game.

I have to say  that both teams did well in their designs, and with a red vs. blue dynamic, this game is already being looked forward to next season.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Hollywood's Skeletons in the Closet

Ray Bradbury is best known for novels such as Fahrenheit 451 and The Illustrated Man, and for good reason.  The book that I am reviewing today is not so well-known, and after reading it, it's safe to say why.  Graveyard for Lunatics is centered around a nameless protagonist who had just been hired by a film studio and receives a mysterious invitation to a graveyard.  What follows is a terrifying discovery that thrusts him into a maelstrom of intrigue and mystery -- and into the dizzy exhilaration of the movie industry at the height of its glittering power.  Whereas the plot of the story is quite intriguing and pulls the curtain back on the goings on  in Hollywood at the time (the story is set in 1954), there are far too many twists and turns that lead nowhere and too many characters to keep up with at certain spots in the novel.  The ending feels rather convoluted, as it tries to explain all of the turns, but doesn't quite make them satisfactory enough for the reader.  Graveyard for Lunatics is good on paper, but it doesn't offer enough to keep the reader long enough, and in some cases, takes forever to finish.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

WHL Playoffs: Conference Semis

With the Kelowna-Seattle series just wrapped up, I can finally get to take a look at each of the series in the next round.


(1) Edmonton Oil Kings vs. (7) Medicine Hat Tigers

The Oil Kings had little trouble disposing of the Kootenay Ice in the opening round, and they look as good as ever in their quest to repeat.  Luarent Brossoit is a big reason for the Oil Kings' success.  Medicine Hat had a plan against Saskatoon in the opening round, and it worked, forcing the Blades to lick their wounds for a while before their Memorial Cup run.  Cam Lanigan has proven to be the answer in goal for the Tigers, and he will need to be the man in goal again, as the Oil Kings are an underrated bunch on offense.  Offense for the Tigers will be dependent on Curtis Valk and Hunter Shinkaruk (if healthy) again.

Prediction: Oil Kings in 5

(3) Calgary Hitmen vs. (4) Red Deer Rebels

Calgary won a hard fought five game series against Swift Current, and will need their offense to step up against a rather stout Rebels defense, led by Patrik Bartosak.  Red Deer's offense will need to step up, as the Hitmen also have a strong defensive front, with Chris Driedger providing the backbone of that unit.  It will be a defensive struggle, and the winner will be the one who finds their offense first.

Prediction: Hitmen in 7


(1) Portland Winterhawks vs. (4) Spokane Chiefs

The Winterhawks had a harder time with the Silvertips than anyone could have imagined.  The road to the Memorial Cup does not get any easier, as the Chiefs handily disposed of the Tri-City Americans in five.  While Spokane doesn't have great goaltending, they do have a good overall offense, and Alessio Bertaggia is an X-factor for the team.  The Winterhawks had a rather inconsistent effort on offense, and that just won't do against Spokane.  Mac Carruth played well, all things considered, but he will have to step up his game, as both teams were evenly matched in the regular season.

Prediction: Winterhawks in 6

(2) Kelowna Rockets vs. (3) Kamloops Blazers

The B.C. rivalry that will be a guaranteed barn burner.  The Rockets took the hard way in getting to this point, going down 3-0 to Seattle in the opening round before rallying to a 4-3 series win.  The Blazers had a hard fought series win in six against Victoria.  Kelowna seems to have found a way to compensate for the loss of Colton Sissons, and are looking to build from that momentum of the Seattle series.  Kamloops is equally good, with JC Lipon, Colin Smith, and Tim Bozon leading the way on offense.  This series is going to be good, with B.C. bragging rights and a spot in the conference finals on the line.

Prediction: Blazers in 7

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Deadlines: Gotta Deal with Them...(Part II)

I've caught my breath, and am now ready for part two:

NASHVILLE PREDATORS: Aside from trading Scott Hannan, the only other big deal was trading a minor leaguer (Michael Latta) and a 20-goal scorer in Martin Erat for Fillip Forsberg, who could be a superstar.

NEW JERSEY DEVILS: Big deal was re-acquiring Steve Sullivan, who should be good for veteran leadership and offense while Ilya Kovalchuk recovers from injury.

NEW YORK ISLANDERS: Nothing to see here.

NEW YORK RANGERS: Traded away Marian Gaborik for Derrick Brassard, John Moore, and Derek Dorsett, and picked up Ryane Clowe from San Jose.

OTTAWA SENATORS: Traded Ben Bishop to Tampa Bay for Cory Conacher in a deal that works for both teams.

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS: Traded for Steve Mason, likely meaning they will use an amnesty clause on Ilya Bryzgalov after the season.

PHOENIX COYOTES: Traded away Steve Sullivan, Raffi Torres, and Matthew Lombardi.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: Brenden Morrow, Jarome Iginla, Douglas Murray, and Jussi Jokinen: in.  Joe Morrow and some lower end prospects and draft picks: out.

ST. LOUIS BLUES: Picked up Jordan Leopold and Jay Bouwmeester, but sent Wade Redden out.

SAN JOSE SHARKS: Picked up Scott Hannan and Raffi Torres for grit.  Lost Douglas Murray (who Hannan essentially replaces) and Ryane Clowe (who has fewer goals than Scott Gomez.  Ouch.)

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING: Gambling on another lightly proven goaltender in Ben Bishop, giving up Cory Conacher in the process.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS: Picked up Ryan O'Byrne from Colorado.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS: Derek Roy from Dallas for Kevin Connauton and a 2nd round pick.  Roy should fill in as the second center while Ryan Kesler recovers from injury.  And Roberto Luongo was not traded.

WASHINGTON CAPITALS: Martin Erat and Michael Latta for Fillip Forsberg: sure to draw vitriol from most Caps fans...if it hasn't already.

WINNIPEG JETS: Did nothing.

Deadlines: Can't Live with Them, Can't be without Them... (part I)

In the midst of the Kelowna-Seattle series that seems to be going on forever (it will end tonight, mercifully), the NHL had its deadline, and there were some fireworks this year in a season that has most teams still believing in their chances.  So, here's what all 30 teams did (more to come as they become official, so watch this space):

ANAHEIM DUCKS: Nothing of note here, except a trade for Matthew Lombardi (not confirmed by NHL.com yet).

BOSTON BRUINS: Picked up Jaromir Jagr and Wade Redden while maintaining their top prospects.  Losing out on both Brenden Morrow and Jarome Iginla stings, though.

BUFFALO SABRES: Out go Robyn Regehr and Jason Pominville, in comes prospects Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett, as well as some draft picks.

CALGARY FLAMES: Jarome Iginla for lower-end prospects and a first round pick and Jay Bouwmeester for lower-end prospects and a first round pick.  Yeah, the Flames waited too long to start rebuilding, and the Bouwmeester trade was actually better.  Also gone is Blake Comeau.

CAROLINA HURRICANES: Only one trade: Jussi Jokinen to Pittsburgh for a draft pick.

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS: Added a third line center in Michal Handzus, who will help in the PK.

COLORADO AVALANCHE: Traded away Ryan O'Byrne and swapped prospects with Dallas (Cameron Gaunce for Tomas Vincour).

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS: All in this time, as they landed Marian Gaborik for underperforming first round picks Derrick Brassard and John Moore, as well as sending Steve Mason to Philadelphia for Michael Leighton and a draft pick and landing Blake Comeau.

DALLAS STARS: Sent Derek Roy to Vancouver for Kevin Connauton and a draft pick, and traded Jaromir Jagr for prospects and a draft pick.  Also traded Brenden Morrow to Pittsburgh for prospect Joe Morrow.

DETROIT RED WINGS: Sent Kent Huskins to Philadelphia for a draft pick.

EDMONTON OILERS: Apart from picking up faceoff specialist Jerred Smithson, the only other moves were a swap of prospects and/or minor leaguers.

FLORIDA PANTHERS: Lone deal was trading Jerred Smithson to Edmonton.

LOS ANGELES KINGS: Robyn Regehr arrives as essentially a replacement for Matt Green and Willie Mitchell.

MINNESOTA WILD: Paid a hefty price to pry Jason Pominville from Buffalo, losing Matt Hackett and Johan Larsson.

MONTREAL CANADIENS: Nothing of note here.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


In light of its recent release by the Criterion Collection, today is a movie review in the form of Badlands.  The basic synopsis is as follows:

Based on the Starkweather-Fugate killing spree of the 1958, in which a fifteen-year-old girl and her twenty-five-year-old boyfriend slaughtered her entire family and several others in the Dakota badlands.
The movie stars Martin Sheen as Kit, whose overall demeanor and looks could be mistaken for James Dean, something that is referenced in the movie, and Sissy Spacek as Holly, three years before her breakout role in Carrie.

The plot itself is rather basic and doesn't really have any exciting points to speak of, but where Badlands gets its notoriety is the way in which both Sheen and Spacek act throughout the movie, which is to say rather detached from the reality that they occupy.  Spacek's character narrates the movie, which reflects this detachment from everyday life and almost lends a dreamlike quality to the movie.  Everything lends itself to the rather laid back nature of the movie, from the scenery to the music, and even the killings themselves, which for all intents and purposes, isn't all that violent.  Badlands is a movie that works well when the viewer is not watching with an emotional investment in how things go.

Winterhawks Weekly: Moving On...

Yesterday, the Portland Winterhawks finally closed out the Everett Silvertips with a 5-1 victory.  That series was not without issues, as Austin Lotz singlehandedly kept the Silvertips in the series with two stellar efforts in games one and five.  however, his inconsistency reared its ugly head in game four, which in many respects, mirrors the Silvertips' struggles as a whole.  As for the Winterhawks, they will need to find a way to ramp up their game and make adjustments, as there will be more efforts like the one Everett gave.  They begin their second round on Friday against either Seattle or Spokane, as the Thunderbirds can clinch tonight.