Thursday, May 30, 2013
I found it surprising that this is the first time the last four Cup champs were the last four standing since sometime in the '50s. The NHL being a six-team league up until the late '60s, you'd think this would've have happened more often. But I digress.
I believe we have the four best teams in the league remaining and I felt they were the four best when the playoffs started but usually major upsets take out a few of the "best" teams. You have outstanding matchups here in the Conference Finals and you're guaranteed a doozy in the Finals, no matter who matches up -- LA against Boston? Talk about deep and physical teams going at it. LA versus the Penguins? Another deep team in Pittsburgh but one that seems to have unlimited offensive firepower going against the defending champs, plus star power any time the Penguins are involved. How about an Original Six matchup between Chicago and Boston, two of the best sports towns in the country. Or even the Blackhawks against the Penguins? While I feel this is the least interesting matchup from a hockey standpoint (no real good reason for feeling that way, just that one matchup has to be least) but what a great matchup it would be anyway and it would be the matchup with the most marquee star power -- Malkin, Crosby, et al, vs Toews and Kane and company.
So who will match up in the Cup Finals? I hate to say this and never bet against my Bruins but the Bruins are the fourth best team here. I think we'll learn a lot about this series from game one because if the Bruins team that played the Rangers shows up, it'll be a long series. And if the Bruins can exploit Pittsburgh only real weakness, goaltending, then they could pull the upset.
Same proviso regarding the western series -- which Blackhawk team shows up will make a big difference. But even then, they're gonna have to solve Jonathan Quick. Edge to LA.
What do you all think? Hey Brent, how'd you end up with your picks?
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Anyway, Cole's notes version is this, the internet and yours truly were not getting along the last few months, but hopefully that's over.
Anyway quick little thought on the above, I think NASCAR made one of the best decisions I have ever seen since I started watching the sport. Maybe a little more control was needed on what was done by whom to what, but, and that to me that is the catchword, this is something that was under nobodies control and no one deserved to have damage that may have altered the outcome for them, my two guys in the race 18 and the 88 both had damage and both got back to square one and both blew engines later in the race. I know the bosses players are doing pretty good, so good luck to them.
Well we are off to the Monster this weekend and if this goes well I shall see ya'll on Monday, I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
Friday, May 24, 2013
Back to the two goals the Bruins gave the Rangers: I can only guess that Tuukka was coming out of his net to coral a wayward shot to give it to his defense but at the precise moment he starts to do that, the puck is deflected and Tuukka all but ties himself in knots trying to get back to the net. Yes, you're a better puck handler than Tim Thomas was but that's no great accomplishment. Play it when it comes to you and that's it. On the second one Chara has a brain cramp and doesn't realize there's a Ranger on his tail behind the net, his D partner didn't warn him or he couldn't hear it; and the puck is stolen from him and just as quickly put in the net. Some blame goes to Rask here too as he also was not aware. You don't need to be aware, just have the goal covered when the puck is near it. Then if it's stolen, you're not surprised.
All in all the Bruins are the better team and should win one of the next three games but why tempt fate? You've already seen first hand that a team can come back on you down three games to none (witness the playoff series against Philly three years ago); the Leafs came back on you after being done three games to one and should've beat you; and your AHL team just got beat after being ahead three games to none.
The best team doesn't always win. Witness the roll the Bruins got on two years ago (de facto becoming the best team at that moment) but they weren't the best time as we commonly think of that term. Just last season an 8th seed beats a 7 seed in the Cup Final to win it all. Some experts poo poo momentum but I won't. Momentum is a factor but also getting your team and its game together (peaking) at the right time is everything. So while in my humble opinion the four best teams in the league are still alive (Pittsburgh, Chicago, Boston, LA), one of them, Chicago, is on it's last leg because (part B of this paragraph) you can't undervalue experiencing playoff success at the highest levels. Exhibit A? The Detroit Red Wings, left for dead three weeks ago and now on the verge of eliminating the best team from the regular season. Exhibit B to a lesser extent are the Boston Bruins, who in the first three games of this series with the Rangers looked like the team that won the Cup two years ago.
John Tortorella is a bore and the NY Rangers are not the NY Yankees. You can insert your own examples as to why Torts is a bore...I just wanted to say it publicly. The Rangers have tried mightily before their one recent Cup and since to buy a championship with horrible results. Mark Messiers don't grow on trees for one thing and even as the Yankees have learned more often than not the hard way, bringing in an all star team does not a great team make. You're free to offer your own examples of the wasteland that is the high-priced failures of Rangers past and present, Brad Richards being just the very latest. Even Rick Nash qualifies here because great players don't always success under the bright lights of NY, they're sometimes already over the hill or in the case of people like Nash, they're the wrong player for the style your coach wants to play.
Trivia question: Without cheating, which means looking it up in any way, name as many NHL goalies as you can who played at the University of Maine. Hint: There's two currently in the league, one very much alive in these playoffs. Another is the current GM of a team that made this year's playoffs.
PS My new favorite player is Torey Krug, who's being compared here in New England to my all-time favorite player, Don Sweeney. Too bad he doesn't wear number 43, my favorite number, which is being worn by another of the three young Bruin defensemen that have risen to the occasion in these playoffs, young Mr. Bartkowski.
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Monday, May 20, 2013
No discussion of the San Antonio Spurs can begin or end without talking about the advanced ages of Tim Duncan (37), Manu Ginobili (35) or Tony Parker (a spry 31), but one thing I’ll never accuse them of is being too old. Especially since they took down the physical Memphis Grizzlies easily in Game 1 yesterday.
The Grizzlies had no answer for Parker, and Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Matt Bonner (he’s 33 BTW) made sure it rained threes all day long.
If this is how it’s going to be, go ahead and make plans for a Spurs – Heat final. And maybe this time our bench will beat them.
Friday, May 17, 2013
I haven't seen Christian in a week, I have his $2, but I think he's waiting to ambush me (...I gotta watch my back!)
However, it was during that April 27th game that Zeb and I traded texts and twits and emails over how horribly Zeb felt the zebras called the game. From my perspective, I thought they were all good calls--Zeb felt they were inconsistent and untimely. I didn't (couldn't, wouldn't) see his point then, but I think I do now.
In his summary blog of the first round of the playoffs, Brent wrote: "The Capitals were robbed by the officials with the Rangers having a two-to-one ratio of Power Plays. Even though the Rangers PP looked horrible, having to kill off a penalty can cause problems with your own team. Caps fans have every reason to be upset at the NHL and it's officials."
I couldn't agree more. I'm not going to grouse, bitch, moan, groan, or complain--I want to believe the refs are human and make mistakes. But I readily admit that there is something to be said for consistency in officiating. In the picture to the left, you clearly see nine (9) Rangers on the ice, and on this very play, the refs did call a penalty for too many men on the ice---ON WASHINGTON!!!! No, I'm not kidding and this is not hyperbole. They gave the Rangers the PP and the Caps went on to lose Game 3 and the rest is, well, history.
As for the Caps' season, I'm not bitter, just bitterly disappointed that the Caps do, in fact, seem to have "choke-itis." But I am nonetheless proud of my team and I remain a loyal homer. The Washington Capitals are a 39-year old NHL expansion team; they've made the playoffs 24 of those 39 seasons (61%). Eight times they won the division. Ten times they advanced past the first round; only twice did they make it into the semi's, and just once to the Stanley Cup where they were trounced by the high flying Red Wings.
Oh well...I guess it's time, once again, to sing the Washington, DC, Unified Sports Team Fight Song:
"I know all there is to know about the crying game; I've had my share of the crying game..."
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Ladies and gents, I’d love to tell you about how great the Bruins were in coming back from a 4-2 lead to win in overtime. I’d love to tell you how I’m proud of how my Leafs proved me wrong and took this series to a Game 7. But I can’t. Real life means I can’t arbitrarily call in sick midway through my work day to watch a hockey game, so I can’t break down what happened to the Leafs or why. Instead I’ll tell you about how great today was from a hockey fan’s perspective.
For me, it began as soon as I woke up. I work from home, and I didn’t want to be like a mushroom and rely on text messages from Zeb to tell me what was going on. What did I do? I spent about an hour or so moving all the furniture around in my living room so my computer desk faced the big screen television. I didn’t care whether or not I’d actually get to watch the game since Mondays are the busiest work days for me. I wanted to experience it, even if it were only a few seconds every ten minutes or so.
This Game 7 was unlike any other for one specific reason. The only thing hotter than James Reimer in goal was the weather. By the time my work day started, it was 102 degrees and the thermometer was still in triple digits by the time the puck dropped. I can honestly say I was one of the few Leafs fans that watched the game in a heat wave.
I glanced up every so often to see what was going on, but I missed a lot of the game. I knew when each team scored, and I got to see Phil Kessel score to make it 3-1, but I have no idea who did what without looking at the box score. But from the bits and pieces I saw I remember why I fell in love with this game as a kid. I loved how each team took chances. They rushed the puck from one end of the rink to another at a pace I haven’t seen since I watched Smythe Division hockey games in the early to mid-80s. There was no neutral zone trap to cut down scoring chances. There was no clutching and grabbing to slow down puck carriers. It was “Here I come, whatcha going to do about it?” hockey and while I sat in my cushy computer chair I only needed the edge.
The best part of the night? You won’t believe me but I’ll tell you. With about five minutes left in the game, Zeb texted me to congratulate me on the Leafs winning the game. I texted back, “Thanks but it ain’t over yet.”
Boy, was this one time I wish I were wrong.
Am I sad over this loss? No. I expected the Leafs to lose in six games because hardly anyone on the roster has ever played hockey past the first weekend in April. But the team surprised me. They got their butts kicked in Game 1, but once they realized what kind of effort it takes to win playoff games they went back to work. They lost a heartbreaker in Game 4, yet they came back and took the next two games to put the Bruins on the ropes. They almost pulled off the upset, but in the end their inexperience caught up to them.
There’s a lot to be hopeful for next year, such as:
- Phil Kessel is no longer scared of the Big, Bad Bruins. For the past four years, I wondered if it would have been best to make Kessel a healthy scratch against his old team. He scored four goals this series, and even had one Canadian sports writer on my Twitter feed joke that Claude Julien needs to get Zdeno Chara away from all those matchups against Kessel.
- James Reimer is the unquestioned #1 goalie in Toronto. His performance should shut down any rumors of Roberto Luongo or anyone else being traded to the Leafs this summer.
- Cody Franson showed he can be a reliable defenseman. When he arrived from Nashville, he was considered a power play specialist and a defensive liability. Now he’s a legit top four defenseman that doesn’t make you cringe whenever the puck is in his end.
- Jake Gardiner is all that and then some. I would not be shocked if he won a Norris Trophy in the next five years. Once he gets more NHL experience, it will be scary to see how good the Leafs can be in their transition game.
- Nazem Kadri has what it takes to be a #1 center in the NHL, but he needs more experience and consistency. There is no way Leafs should pay Tyler “Blackface” Bozak $8 million a year to be the default #1 guy in the middle, and it’s obvious Mikhail Grabovski is not the answer. Someone has to step up, and that someone is Kadri.
I’m proud of these guys. I know this loss hurts, but I hope when they wake up tomorrow they realize they did the best they could with the team they had – and the Canadiens had a four-day head start to sharpen up their golf game!
NY Islanders - Goaltending. Evgeni Nabokov looked like a second tier goalie. A couple of outstanding saves and the Isles knock off the Penguins. But the young talent is there on offense and defense.
Montreal - Heart. The Canadiens thought that they should be handed victories. They showed no heart when the series got tough for them, just cheapness with thuggery. Michel Therrien showed that he is an ineffective Head Coach. And if it was true that team Captain Brian Gionta was crying in Therrien's arms because the Habs were going to lose the series, then they need a new captain.
Washington - A Better Reputation. The Capitals were robbed by the officials with the Rangers having a two-to-one ratio of Power Plays. Even though the Rangers PP looked horrible, having to kill off a penalty can cause problems with your own team. Ovechkin didn't play to his potential and Holtby is a fine Goalkeeper for the Caps. Caps fans have every reason to be upset at the NHL and it's officials.
Toronto - Experience. I am impressed with the young players in the Maple Leafs lineup. James Reimer looks like he could be the Curtis Joseph of the Leafs for many years. Toronto deserved to win the series, but inexperience came and bit them on the ass. The funny thing is that you have to give Brian Burke credit for his patience with the oung kids before being axed.
Vancouver - Direction. After being beaten by the divers of Vancouver South, this team appears to need a complete overhaul. You start at head coach, go through the goaltending and then start looking at the defense that looked like they belonged in the AHL.
Anaheim - Wingers. The Ducks got real good goaltending from Hiller, the defense played rather well and the centermen were a strength for the Ducks. The Wingers need to show up and play.
St. Louis - Focus. This team played a real tough series against the Kings. They could have won the series but there were lots of distractions behind the scenes. The coach is fighting with players, the players are revolting and the leadership couldn't resolve the two. Ken Hitchcock has went back to his taskmaster ways and causing problems.
Minnesota - A better Top 6. Everybody is screaming that Mike Yeo should be fired. Why? This team gets devastated by injuries annually. He made it into the playoffs with Pierre Marc-Bouchard, Cal Clutterbuck, and Charlie Coyle as Top 6 forwards. That means you have problems. The Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley trade that was supposed to bring offense to the Wild didn't work. You can put some of the blame at Yeo's feet, but more should be put on the player's shoulders.
Monday, May 13, 2013
I won't get into the game details much but the loss of Redden before the game and Seidenberg on his first shift meant the Bruins had to rely on two rookies on the back end, and the Leafs repeatedly exposed them. But the Bruins didn't quit, brought back by Milan Lucic's physical play and energy, a guy who's been deservedly maligned of late.
But this series overall is some of the best hockey I've seen in a long time. It's right up there with the Cup Final against Vancouver in my mind. The Bruins spanked the Leafs in game 1, making them run around and look rattled; but give that bunch a ton of credit...they came back and never quit after that. Despite giving up those goals at the end tonight, Reimer was terrific between the pipes. If you didn't see it, Game 4 of this series was THE BEST game I've seen in a very long time, bar none.
So hopefully the Bruins have found their offense because now it's time to face the Rangers and Henrick Lundquist.
I wish my friend could have experienced what I'm experiencing right now. I must would've preferred this comeback had happened against the Canadiens.
PS Yes, RJ, you still gotta eat crow and we're still waiting for that Spurs post.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Suffice to say we had one helluva time getting together, as well as eating lots of fatty meat and drinking lots of alcohol. There was also no shortage of belly laughs and ribbing to go around. I will put up a piece on my personal blog All Things Zebster, hopefully this afternoon about the whole trip. This short post is really about going to the game.
|L-R My Bro, Ellery, Tim and AA|
Thanks again, AA, for being such a great host and to Tom, Tim and Ellery for the awesome companionship and camaraderie.
PS Ellery is the lone wolf in our group when it comes to favorite teams. Like the rest of us he's a Sox, Bruins and Celtics fan (yeah, I know, AA, you hate basketball) but while the rest of us are Patriots fans, Ellery is a Cowboy fan. This pic's for you, Ell.
|Ell in front of Cowboy Stadium|
Saturday, May 11, 2013
Braves on the Warpath!
Fight for old D.C.!
Run or pass and score -- we want a lot more!
Beat 'em, Swamp 'em,
Touchdown! -- Let the points soar!
Fight on, fight on 'Til you have won
Sons of Wash-ing-ton. Rah!, Rah!, Rah!
Braves on the Warpath!
Fight for old D.C.!
Braves on the Warpath!
Fight for old DIXIE!
Friday, May 10, 2013
Manti Te’o reached a deal to sign with the San Diego Chargers.
In somewhat related news, there’s no word on whether or not fake girlfriends or wives get half his stuff if he gets divorced or in a nasty palimony suit in the state of California.