Saturday, May 29, 2010

2010 NHL Playoffs: Ranking Predictions

The playoffs have been a wacky time. Hardly anyone predicted the Canadiens to win their opening round series, yet they made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Final. I guess that’s why they play the games.

Before you take stock in anyone’s Stanley Cup predictions maybe it’s time we check out their records so far. It’s much easier to put this up when my underdog pick continues to win (that would be the Flyers – I readily admit I had no faith in Montreal).

It was pretty hard to go back and find different writer’s predictions, so the list is much smaller than when I put it up after the first round. Maybe that’s because some people made terrible picks and didn’t want to put their name next to any others. Or maybe my record was actually the worst and I wanted to make myself look good. Believe what you will.

So just in time for the first game of the Stanley Cup you can see who is predicting either the Hawks or Flyers and what their record has been this post-season. Here is another link to Dobber Hockey where you can see the same type of format for a group of writers. Very few sites made finding their predictions this easily. Maybe there’s a reason for that.

Friday, May 28, 2010

2010 NHL Playoffs: Stanley Cup Final Breakdown

For the third year in a row the Stanley Cup Final is an excellent match-up for the NHL (Gary Bettman is secretly mad). Two major American cities that have young and exciting teams.

This is actually a much closer matchup than the seedings suggest. While Philadelphia finished the regular season as the Eastern Conference’s seventh seed with 88 points, 24 behind the Hawks, they shouldn't be considered heavy underdogs.

At this point Philadelphia is playing like the team everyone thought they would be at the beginning of the season, rather than the one that limped into the playoffs on the last day of the regular season.

Philadelphia is sort of like the Eastern Conference version of the Blackhawks, just a little older and maybe a little shallower on the blueline.

The Chicago Blackhawks are who we thought they were.

Let’s break this sucker down.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Case for Supporting the Blackhawks

kevin james
Leaf fans may be conflicted about who to cheer for during this Stanley Cup Final. There are factors that could make seeing either Mike Richards or Jonathan Toews lift the Stanley Cup unsettling for Leafs Nation.

The Leafs and Flyers have a pretty heated rivalry that dates back to the 1970s when both teams took gooning to a whole new level. The rivalry was rekindled in the late 90s and early 2000s with a couple hard-fought playoff series. It’s because of the Flyers that instead of remembering this about the 2004 playoffs, I remember this.

While Leaf and Flyer fans do not like each other there is the complicating matter of Chicago’s last Stanley Cup victory – which happened a long time ago. Their last Stanley Cup happened so long ago that they actually own the longest drought in all of hockey. The team with the inglorious distinction of owning the second longest drought is the Toronto Maple Leafs. My math skills are lacking, but even I know that if Chicago wins the Stanley Cup then the Leafs will have the longest Stanley Cup drought in the NHL.

This factor is so compelling that one Leafs fan (who shall remain nameless for his safety) said he would cheer for the Canadiens against the Blackhawks if that was the Stanley Cup Final. That’s obscene, but I think it shows how strongly some fans feel about this disgraceful record.

Even though it means that Chicago will erase their Stanley Cup famine, I am firmly cheering for them to win the Stanley Cup.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Do the Sharks Need to Re-build?

evgeni nabokov sharks
The San Jose Sharks once again failed to make it to the Stanley Cup Final after being a top-seed in the Western Conference. They didn’t lose in horrific fashion, but the result will leave the Sharks with the same empty feeling that they have every year.

It's convenient to label this loss to the Blackhawks as another Sharks’ collapse, especially since they were swept 4-0, but that would be disingenuous. The Sharks may have lost four straight to the Hawks, but every game was close and more than a few could have gone the other way. And this wasn’t some underdog team that upset the Sharks - it was the most complete team in the entire league.

While there is no shame in losing in the Conference Final to a team like the Chicago Blackhawks, this is definitely a bitter moment for the Sharks and their fans, especially since it was all over so quickly.

Now the Sharks head into a summer where they face many big decisions. This team doesn’t need to be blown apart, but major changes certainly need to happen. This is a good team, but one who has failed to win a Stanley Cup despite being pegged by analysts as heavy favourites for a number of years. It may be time for Doug Wilson to realize that the current core of the team just isn’t good enough to win the Stanley Cup.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

John Olerud's Helmet


I'd like to take a momentary break from hockey writing to let everyone know that I am a part of another blog dedicated to the great sport of baseball - with an emphasis on the Blue Jays.

I'd appreciate it if you took some time to check out John Olerud's Helmet. I'm writing there in tandem with a couple frequent commenters and good friends, so it should be a fun time.

It's going to be a long summer without hockey and I'm going to have to fill the void with something other than the new season of Jersey Shore (which will be horrible and not in the good way that the first season was horrible).

I probably don't know as much about baseball as I do hockey, but that still means I'm maniacally obsessed with it.

I'm also just starting to learn more about sabermetrics, so it'll be fun to see if my posts descend into only analyzing players based on their WAR and UZR, rather than my usual method of hating players for a bad name or an ugly face.

Don't worry, I will still maintain Five Minutes For Fighting during the summer, regardless of the lack of actual hockey being played. I've got a bunch of ideas for posts that range from thought provoking to down-right insane. I've even got a few sure to piss of Montreal fans. It's going to be fun!

If you want to help me out you can send me some hockey related questions or comments and I can do a few mailbags over the summer. The more obscene the Montreal insults, the better.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Will Nonis Replace Burke?

dave nonis brian burke leafs

Brian Burke has publicly stated that he is not interested in a five-year re-build. Bolding acquiring Phil Kessel indicates as much. Whenever you trade two first round picks (and a high second!) you are basically saying, “draft schmaft”.

I don’t really blame him. The GM position for the Maple Leafs takes a large toll on a person. One year as the GM of the Leafs is equal to three human years. That means a five-year re-build will take 15 years off Brian Burke’s life! No wonder he wants this done quickly, he won’t be around to see it finished otherwise.

Thankfully, the Leafs have assembled a super management team of former GMs and the two-year extension signed by Dave Nonis ensures that the super best friends, Burke and Nonis, will continue to work together for the immediate future.

Dave Nonis’ decision to re-sign with the Leafs was welcomed news to me, as he’s clearly a very smart hockey mind. After the Leafs allowed JFJ to drown without even the most modest support I’m always thankful when the Leafs hire or keep a bright hockey mind. I loved when they had Joe Nieuwendyk and I even like Cliff Fletcher in an advisory role – even though his senility wasted draft picks on Jamal Mayers and Ryan Hollweg.

I worried Nonis would leave the Leafs after his contract expired for a higher position with another club, which was definitely in play since he was reportedly a candidate for the GM position in Tampa Bay. He’s already been the GM of a high-profile team (see Vancouver, people sometimes respect you), so I worried he wouldn’t be satisfied playing second fiddle somewhere else (even though that somewhere else is Toronto).

I’m sure this will not be the first time that a team has interest in the former Canucks’ GM. However, Nonis has stated that Toronto is the ideal situation for his family. Additionally, he says he does not want to leave Toronto with so much work left to be done. Burke and Nonis are trying to win a Cup you know. Aside from these two reasons to stay I believe that Nonis has a long-term future with the Leafs and I don’t just mean in an Assistant GM capacity.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

2010 NHL Playoffs: Eastern Conference Finals Breakdown

simon gagne flyers injury hurt
The Eastern Conference finals take place tonight as the Philadelphia Flyers take on the Montreal Canadiens. It’s truly crazy to think that two teams who made it into the playoffs on their last game are now vying for a spot in the Stanley Cup final.

Philadelphia needed a shoot-out victory over the New York Rangers on the last day of the season to secure their playoff berth, while the Canadiens received a single point in an over-time loss to the Maple Leafs to squeak in the night before.

If the Maple Leafs just took care of business in regulation we wouldn’t be in this predicament. Maybe things will change when I get my hands on a Delorean.

Until then, here’s the breakdown of the Eastern Conference finals.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

2010 NHL Playoffs: Western Conference Finals Breakdown

patrick sharp blackhawks
The Conference Finals begin tomorrow and in the infinite wisdom of Gary Bettman and the NHL they will both start on the same day. Stupid. This is definitely to placate NBC who tend to bear with slotting the NHL on Sunday afternoons.

The Western Conference Finals begin at 2:30 pm and feature the (1) Sharks and the (2) Blackhawks. The Eastern Conference Finals start at 7:00 pm and feature the (7) Flyers and the (8) Canadiens. The seedings immediately jump out. The playoffs are a wacky time.

To get everyone ready for the big match-ups I have prepared a comprehensive breakdown of both Conference Finals. I’ll post the Eastern Conference breakdown sometime tomorrow afternoon. Maybe I’ll be nursing a hang-over and will fill it with plenty of bitter jabs at the Habs.

But for now here’s the Western Conference breakdown.

Friday, May 14, 2010

What's the Difference Between Me and You: Pittsburgh Edition

hall gill tall
The Pittsburgh Penguins’ round two defeat at the hands of the improbable Montreal Canadiens left a sour taste in my mouth. Once the Canadiens eliminated the Capitals I thought that the Penguins path to the Cup final was all but sealed. Maybe they thought the same thing.

As well as Montreal played, which was much better than Pittsburgh over the final three games of the series, there were fundamental differences between this year’s Penguins team and the one that won the Stanley Cup a year ago. Those differences played a large role in the Penguins' early playoff exit.

It is still shocking that the Penguins lost in the second round to the Canadiens, but maybe it isn’t so shocking that the Penguins were unable to make it back to the finals for the third time in a row.

I’m limiting this discussion to what was fundamentally wrong with the Penguins, not what the Habs did right throughout the series. Obviously, Jaroslav Halak was brilliant, the defence shut down both Crosby and Malkin, and Mike Cammalleri scored big goals often. You could even argue that the Bell Centre crowd shifted all the momentum in Montreal’s favour before game 6 even started. But I don't want to talk positively about the Canadiens any longer than I have to.

Here are the three main reasons why the Penguins are shaving their beards, rather than progressing to the Viking stage of facial hair (Sidney Crosby not included).

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Answer Me These Questions Three (or more)

pk subban habs
I started writing this last night when Montreal was winning 4-0. Very soon after I began the Penguins made it 4-2. I thought they were coming back. Maybe if I kept writing under the theory that the Habs had the game wrapped up they would blow it in horrible fashion thanks to my reverse jinx. Or maybe saying I was reverse jinxing them on twitter actually reverse jinxed my reverse jinx. Montreal winning is making me insane. I need to be committed.

I really don’t know how Montreal did it. First Washington, now Pittsburgh. What happened?

I have some questions that need to be answered.

Monday, May 10, 2010

My Nightmare

tuukka rask bruins
A thousand pardons for my temporary disappearance from the interwebs. Well, not total disappearance because I’ve been cracking jokes at the expense of the Habs on twitter - because trying to make a handful of strangers laugh is the only thing worthwhile about twitter. The worst thing about twitter, aside from the absolute lack of thought required for it, is people who live tweet sports. We get it, you’re watching the game. So are we. We saw the goal.

Talking about twitter is worse than actually being on twitter. Alas.

Another reason for my temporary disappearance may be a job change. That’s really just an excuse because I was working pretty much the same amount of hours for the majority of this blog’s life at my previous job.

The real reason may be the lack of Maple Leaf news. I can’t just write pieces trashing Montreal and Vancouver non-stop. It’s been hard restraining myself. However, this isn't why I've been away.

The true reason I haven’t posted in some time is I’m rattled. I’ve been having night terrors. Terrible dreams that haunt me. Really it’s one dream. It’s a striking image that I can’t seem to shake.

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