Friday, March 26, 2010

We'll be back ...

After much debate, I figured we should come back. Since it's nearly playoff time, what better time to do so.

As they say in Chennai, ஹாக்கி ரூல்ஸ்!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend, and Stanley Cup Finals Prediction

Bud: ~Feb 14, 1993 - May 19, 2008

Hi everyone. We'll it's been a long last couple weeks. Our cat Bud, was put to sleep on Monday. Now, for those who aren't animal lovers, this probably will sound a bit overdramatic, but I lost a very close friend. He battled Chronic Renal Failure, CRF, for the past couple years. The last 2 weeks, his appetite stopped, he vomited frequently, began to weaken to the point of being unable to get around, and finally, his one working kidney ceased to function.

Even today, 5 days later, I feel an emptyness that hasn't quite healed. It has been hard to write, even with this fantastic Stanley Cup Finals about to begin in just a couple hours. I think that pets are an extension of ourselves. They are with us in the good times and bad, and without saying anything, they sense our every emotion and feeling. Bud was that kind of cat - one that was with me nearly every step I took.

In an email to friends, I quoted the Tragically Hip's song, "Heaven is a Better Place Today", a song dedicated to the passing of Atlanta Thrasher, Dan Snyder, killed in the car accident a few years back that also involved (now) Ottawa Senator winger Dany Heatley. The song's main lyric, "Heaven is a better place today, because of this, but the world is just not the same" is indeed fitting. Bud is in a special place now, not suffering anymore, and hopefully laying on a porch with the glorious sun's rays drenching his white fur.

Alright, in this limited time before they drop the puck for Game 1, my glorious Stanley Cup Finals prediction. Since I don't have time to scrape up statistics, I'll have to go on gut feelings for this one. Since the series is 2-2-1-1-1, which I feel is the preferred format vs. the NBA and MLB's 2-3-2 format (ironic, considering both the NBA and MLB have way more revenue, but use the supposed "travel friendly formats"), I like the fact that Pittsburgh can come out and try to steal one of the first 2 from Detroit. Pittsburgh has been fantastic at home, going 8-0 so far in the playoffs. I really think the pressure is going to be on Detroit to try and get both games at home, even though Detroit is a fantastic road team. They are also a bit banged up right now, especially if leading goal scorer Johann Franzen does not play (due to post-concussion syndrome). How Detroit stops both Crosby and Malkin will be interesting. I really think Pittsburgh is an underrated defensive team and showed in the Rangers series, they are willing to play the 1-0, or 2-1 type games. And Chris Osgood has yet to be tested this playoff round.

The glory days return to the Steel City. Pens in 6.

Here's to a fun, great, exciting, non-sweep playoff series.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Don Freakin' Cherry!!!

He's on Sportscenter right now ... in all his pink suited glory. Will try and find a youtube clip or a picture at some point.

Gave some to the Flyers for playing a wide-open game versus the Flyers. Basically said they'd be out in 4 if they continued to play into Pittsburgh's style.

Talked about Malkin, Crosby, and the Pens outstanding chances to win it all. Mentioned that Ryan Malone is the key leader in the dressing room and heaped alot of praise on Staal.

In discussing the poor playoff attendance in Hockeytown, he called out Detroit's ownership for not putting a "rock 'em, sock 'em hockey team" on the ice because the fans live in a "redneck town". Very interesting, Coach. Either way, called them his Stanley Cup favorites.

Assessment? Bucigross threw him a few softball questions and Cherry fired off some good answers, though he was tame compared to HNIC standards. Good start, but it has plenty of room to get more interesting and exciting.

(and sincere apologies for no Eastern Conference preview).

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Western Conference Preview: Dallas vs. Detroit

Alright, so I promised an explanation of my "educated guess" regarding the WC Finals, with the Dallas Stars going up against the President's Trophy winning Detroit Red Wings.

Let's look at a couple key statistics. First, the Goals Against / Game, Power Play, and Penalty Killing stats.

Dallas - 2.10 (3/16)
Detroit - 2.00 (2/16)

Dallas - Marty Turco, 8-4, 1.73 GAA, 92.9% Save
Detroit - Chris Osgood, 6-0, 1.52 GAA, 93.7% Save
- Dominik Hasek, 2-2. 2.91 GAA, 88.8% Save

PP% Regular Season/Postseason (Rank out of 30/16)
Dallas - 18.1 (13th) /25.0 (2nd)
Detroit - 20.7 (3rd) / 20.4 (9th)

PK% Regular Season/Postseason (Rank out of 30/16)
Dallas - 85.6 (2nd) / 85.7 (4th)
Detroit - 84.0 (8th) /85.4 (5th)

These are two evenly matched squads on the defensive and specialty teams. The key to me is the offensive explosiveness of the Red Wings ...

Goals For:
Dallas - 3.80 (1st/16)
Detroit - 2.92 (5th/16)

... particularly the play of Johann Franzen, who leads the NHL in 11 playoff goals. San Jose and Anaheim, during streches of their series, seemed to be able to tighten up and stifle Dallas a bit, particularly through either strong forecheck pressure which limited transition opportunities or clogging up the neutral zone. Detroit plays a strong enough forecheck that teams rarely get a chance to breathe once they gain the puck. Detroit can match Dallas's physical play and even exceed it. They've shown through streches of the playoffs that it was nearly impossible to take the puck away from them, particuarly on the power play.

Psychologically, Dallas seems to have exceeded expectations. Detroit, after blowing a 2-1 lead against Anaheim last year, is focused on returning to the Finals for the first time in 6 years. Mike Babcock has been here before, leading those same Ducks back in 2003 while Dave Tippett is making his first conference finals appearance. Dallas does have strong leadership through key guys like Cup winners Mike Modano, Brendan Morrow, Sergei Zubov, and Jere Lehtenen.

Dallas has the skill and toughness to match up well with them and I do believe this will be a close series, but Detroit is the team with the slight edge, both offensively as well as in the intangibles. I'll be shocked if this series goes either 4 or 5 games, one way or another.

Raleigh Youth drafted by OHL team (Saginaw)

What a very cool story - the first real sign that youth hockey is making an impact in hockey. The OHL is considered the top, or one of the top junior leagues in the world, so to make a team is a pretty big feat.

Whether this is the signal that the Raleigh/Triangle youth hockey leagues will start increasing the number of high-level youth teams or the advent of college hockey, remains to be seen.

As I've said in the past, North Carolina, and the NC/VA/MD region in general, is really a hockey hotbed waiting to happen, moreso than perhaps any other newer markets that the NHL has expanded into.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Somehow we've made it to week 2 ...

... and I'm not sure what's making me so tired? Staying up for the 4OT classic between the Stars and Sharks this past Sunday? Or the fact that the Leafs tossed poor Paul Maurice aside earlier today and my head is spinning from all the spin from the Leafs front office:

Maurice, who probably went a season or two too long in Carolina, really wasn't given much of a chance, either in tenure or in terms of the talent he was provided by management. Maurice is a stand up guy, one of the few coaches who'll stay above the fray, is honest to a fault, and sticks to his guns, even when things aren't going smoothly.

He'll hopefully end up somewhere else as a head coach, preferrably with a team that has a strong GM, like his time in Carolina.

With that being said, Toronto is now without a GM AND Coach. I'll defer any further analysis to my colleague JP, Toronto fan and Ontario native, who has his theories on what direction the Leafs may go.

Other interesting news throughout the league, the Wal-Mart of sports, ESPN, has decided to sign Hockey Icon Don Cherry to help provide analysis for the Eastern and Western Conference Finals through the end of the Stanley Cup finals.
You know, as a hockey fan, the NHL and ESPN both have frustrated me (and the many other hockey fans) with their obstinate attitudes and arrogance with regards to their product (NHL) and medium (ESPN). ESPN, the unofficial network of poker, Duke basketball and OK, UNC basketball, the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and NBA, seem to indirectly admit, by getting Cherry, that there is a nice little swell of interest during the NHL playoffs. Hell, watch the NBA playoffs or whatever other crap is on TV and you'll see why the NHL playoffs are substantially better TV viewing than anything else on the boob tube. With that being said, the NHL's decision to turn it's back to the home of World's Strongest Man and the Sklar brothers doing inane brackets, instead using Versus, has arguably set the league back to pre-80's recognition.

Cherry and Melrose will probably blind a good number of people (good Lord, especially in HD!!!) with their wardrobe choices, but the hockey banter will be excellent, and frankly, better than hearing numbskulls like Screamin' A. Smith and Skip Bayless take personal shots at players who refused them interviews.

Another tidbit that was fascinating, was this little blurb about third jerseys - including one from YOUR Carolina Hurricanes:

Do you like it? Well, it's honestly the only possible third jersey design, sans a gigantic Stormy head as the front crest. Perhaps they were going to use a enormous picture of Peter Karamanos?

Next topic - little men

Nathan Gerbe, Boston College centerman and Hobey Baker finalist, was signed to a contract by the Buffalo Sabres. This is noteworthy not just because Buffalo actually inked someone to a contract (I know, surprising, eh?), but because the BC standout (and National Champion) would become the NHL's smallest player, at just 5'6" and 150 lbs., passing New Jersey Devil, and Rochester, NY native Brian Gionta. In this supposed new era of hockey, where little guys like Gionta, Martin St. Louis, Daniel Briere, and others found massive success, it'll be interesting to see if Gerbe with his blazing speed and quick hands can make an impact at the top level. Considering the Sabres potential lack of depth at the Center position, he'll at least get a shot in training camp.

I forgot to expound on my theory about the Sharks playing for Ron Wilson's job. They put up a heck of a fight, especially coming 1 goal away from forcing a Game 7 in their series with Dallas. While I don't agree with Barry Melrose's assessment, calling them the most talented team in the Western Conference (that'd be Detroit), I do think that there is something slightly off about the team when it comes to playoff time, and perhaps it's time to shake the team up a bit, either with moving some key veterans like Patrick Marleau or perhaps giving Wilson the boot for a more laid back, less abrasive coach.

Finally, the big NHL news, the Conference finals. I'll give my predictions first, then follow-up with a more indepth analysis tomorrow.

Detroit over Dallas in 5.
Philadelphia over Pittsburgh in 7.

I inserted a picture in my blog. Celebrations shall ensue.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

First Blog Post

Hi all! After some encouragement and hang-wringing, I've decided to enter the world of blogging. More directly, on the topics of ice hockey, the NHL, and perhaps a few other random things in the world of sports.

My biggest goal is to talk about hockey, especially the NHL, but I'm open to chatting about anything in the realm of the sport (and perhaps a random thought or two).

Tonight, to get things kicked off, I've been watching Game 4 of the Sharks-Stars. Aside from Patrick Marleau's 2nd SHG in as many nights, I've been completely impressed with the desperation that San Jose has played with since the Dallas goal about midway through the 2nd period. An interesting statistic that Chris Cuthbert noted was Nabokov's poor 3rd period save percentage in the series. While he hasn't had to face a ton of shots, he's played pretty well tonight.

And as the horn sounds, San Jose hangs on for a big win, to stave off elimination. To be fair, Dallas has been quite good in the playoffs and surprisingly so. This team, which has really undergone a pretty large change in the makeup of the team since the lockout, particularly in the skill department has finally found some consistent offense and the much maligned Marty Turco has played quite well.

Speaking of Turco, the man received a fair amount of grief since taking the reigns from Ed Belfour a few years back, for not leading this team deeper in the playoffs. So, I decided to look up his playoff stats to see if my gut was right and ...

Courtesy of the NHLPA website:

Playoff GAA the last few years:
02-03 - 1.88 (2nd round)
03-04 - 3.32 (1st round)
04-05 - 3.39 (1st round)
06-07 - 1.30 (1st round)
07-08 - 2.38 (2nd round, up 3-1)
Career - 2.25

To me, the guy admittedly did struggle pre-lockout, but I still believe that the Stars really bit the bullet to adapt their team to the new NHL (and still made the playoffs during that time, unlike some other teams *cough* LEAFS *cough*) and finally are getting not only Turco's solid play, but consistent offense to help him out. In particular the core of guys from the 1998-2001 timeframe (Modano, Morrow, Lehtinen, Zubov) have mixed in well with the new guys either drafted or brought in (Ribero, Hagman, Miettinen, Robidas) and they've pieced together a nice run, so far.

With all that praise being said, I'm curious to see how Game 5 unfolds. The Sharks have been all over the map this postseason, showing flashes of dominance and alternating that with stretches of listless play. I truly believed that Ron Wilson was coaching for his job in Game 7 of the Calgary series (and it was kind of Mike Keenan to help him out there, with one of his patented goalie switches, tip of the hat to ya, Coach Keenan) and it probably will be no different Friday night. Ownership has molded this team over the last few years via both trades and free agency into a Cup contender, but Wilson, in my opinion, has massively underachieved in the post season, and at some point, the onus should fall on him for the team's failure.

Alright, through all the babbling, I hope I've kept someone's attention!

Here's hoping we're still going strong one year, heck, even one week from now!