Friday, December 11, 2009

What Is This Team's Identity?

I am now 3-0 on the season for games attended in person and in all three games (vs. the New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings and last night the Atlanta Thrashers) the Canucks have scored four goals in each game. So, if the team needs scoring, just call me. I definitely am contributing to the crowd mojo for more offence.

Having said that this is a hard team to figure out. The Canucks do a lot of things well. They score (ranking 6th in the NHL), they defend well (7th in goals against), the powerplay is terrific (4th overall) but their achilles heel reared its ugly head at times in this game. That weakness is the propensity for taking bad penalties (the most recent culprit seems to be Mikael Samuelsson) and terrible penalty killing (5th worst in the NHL) is a very bad sign. The teams, namely San Jose and Chicago, that the Nux'll have to beat to get out of the West just destroy teams who take dumb penalties.

The Canucks also tend to take their cue from the Sedins and think they need to pass the puck into the net. Mason Raymond, would you please just shoot the puck. At least Ryan Kesler seems to have gotten his game back on song and is getting loads of chances. He just needs to stop shooting like a Trevor Linden. Lift the puck and put it on net. It isn't rocket science.

Atlanta, on the other hand, are an entertaining team in so many ways. They have high comedy in nets with Ondrej Pavelec a cross between Doug Favell. Pete Peeters and Dominik Hasek. In the first period he put two pucks into his own net with lazy efforts on pucks he had actually stopped. In the third he was all over the net like a Gumby and kept the Thrashers in the game.

Obviously, playing last night in Calgary meant the Nux lucked out in getting a tired team. In the first period, though, the Thrash were buzzing especially Ilya Kovalchuk. This is a guy you just have to love. He is always ready to unload that shot of his, has great moves and is a wood chopper on the level of Steve Yzerman in his prime. Kovalchuk got in a chopping war with Kesler and even slashed Steve Bernier right across the chest at the buzzer as the teams were headed off the ice. I'm sure the tree huggers will whine but Bobby Clarke would have been proud.

Local Vancouver product Evander Kane had a couple of great chances one of which went to video review but he came up empty on the scoresheet. He also got into Kesler's kitchen (what is it with Kesler and whatever it is I like the Linesman rat-like hate teams have for him).

Then there's the sleeping (or comatose) giants on the Thrash. Example one is Nik "no intensity" Antropov. You can definitely see why Toronto lost its patience with this guy. He may put up the points but he should be far harder on the puck. In fact, he looks like an Eric Lindros but palys nothing like him.

Pavel Kubina just looks like a fat Willie Huber now. He's slow. he's not physical. He's has that shot which he never really got off all game.

Then there's 6' 7" 245 lb. Boris Valabik who is a monster and got into a fight in which 5' 11" 190 lb. Rick Rypien TKO-ed, if you can believe that. (The kid next to me kept yelling "in the ass" during the fight. Is this some new UFC fighting technique I don't know about. I know UFC has plenty of guy-on-guy action but this gives a whole new meaning to a low blow.)

Which brings me to the single thing you do notice about the Canucks--they aren't very big nor physical enough. Sure they have a bunch of defensemen over 6' 2" but none you'd really say make other teams' forwards pay. This is fine when they play a softer team like Atlanta but it will be interesting come playoff time. All due respect to the D-corps but other than Shane O'Brien and the one Willie Mitchell hit on Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews, the Canucks lack that scary Zdeno Chara/Chris Pronger edge (sorry, Kevin Bieksa but taking dumb penalties does not scare opponents).

Lastly, a disturbing fan trend started up. Now after each Nux goal a "woo" sound is played over the PA. Throughout the game fans started randomly making this sound, but it comes across more like crazed bird noises. I half expected Tippi Hedren to come running down the aisle screaming with a crow in her hair. Just go to a game and listen. It's like seagulls trying to communicate over English Bay.



Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Thank, Morneau, There's Still Radio!

If any of you are baseball fans you'll know exactly what I'm talking about from the headline above. Yesterday was probably one of the most thrilling MLB one-game playoff games ever but here in B.C. did we get to see it?

Well, it was not on Sportnet Pacific but it was on Sportsnet West...well, at least until 6 p.m. Then the screen went blank. That's because from 6 p.m. Sportsnet West switched to its scheduled broadcast of the Habnots-Lames game. Not that it mattered either way here because, as you know, all NHL hockey games broadcast on Sportsnet channels other than Pacific are blacked out.

Now you'd think since we were in extra innings of a winner-gets-in-the playoffs, loser-goes-home scenario that the game would flip to either Sportsnet Pacific or Ontario (Shaw in their infinite wisdom has axed Sportsnet East off its broadcast band so that was not an option) but nooooooooo!

On Pacific we got McCown's show (something anyone could download later and listen to as a podcast as do we really need to watch radio on TV while the possible last game in the Metrodump was going on?) or on Ontario we got that non-sport called poker or was it ultimate fighting...probably ultimate poker fighting.

My question is: How difficult is it to run a 24-hour sports channel?

Here's what you do: You show sports 24 hours a day. Not highlight shows. Not radio on TV. Not poker. Not MMA. Games. Actual games. This means games until their conclusion (unless you live/lived in Japan meaning until 8:54 pm). And, if a baseball playoff game (it was actually Game 163 of the regular season for each team but let's not get too technical) they cut into some meaningless (sorry, the truth hurts when you have 16 teams in the playoffs out of 30) regular season hockey game, so be it. At the very least replay the game through the graveyard hours so those of us who'd even like to tape it and watch after the fact.

Speaking of which, Sportsnet, how about from the hours of midnight to maybe 6 or 7 a.m. instead of looping Sportsnet Connected endlessly, why not replay the games you showed that day...or even better yet replay the best games of the night before so insomniacs (and taping fiends) could watch something at least somewhat less talking heads. Even as a hockey fan who thinks the regular season is really only there for hockey pools, I'd love to have seen a replay of the Flyers 6-5 OT win over the Caps from last night. Snag the replay rights off TSN or Versus and make us actual sports fans happy for once.

Anyway, thank, Harmon Killebrew, the TEAM was broadcasting the game on the radio, and anyone out here on the Left Coast could listen to the conclusion of one wild game as the Twinkies came out on top of this battle royale with the Tigers.
Your Twins Are Still Alive, Harmon!

Oh, and by the way, given Shaw is broadcasting NHL Centre Ice free through Oct. 24, the Habs-Lames game was on anyway so what good did blacking the screen out do here in B.C?
So thank you, Sportsnet, for the non-coverage of the end of, what may go down as, maybe the greatest one-game "playoff" in MLB history.


Monday, October 5, 2009

Two Down, 80 More To Go!

I'm sure there are thousands falling off the Canuck bandwagon after an 0W-2L start coming off an undefeated (in regulation time) pre-season.

One thing we have learned is no matter how hard Roberto Luongo practices, it's like some well-worn 2nd-round draft cliche, he just cannot play well in October. Hopefully, Coach Vigneault realizes this and now is the time to get Andrew Raycroft in some games. Not only do the Canucks really have nothing really to lose doing this in October, but Luongo will be fresher come the real season in April. Then again maybe Bingo Bango Bongo needs to work up a good sweat in October. Whatever the case, in the long haul, I doubt a poor October will wreck the team's playoff chances. We've been through these middling Octobers before with the man now signed for 12 more years during playoff years (5W 5L last season and 7W 6L in '06/07)

Then again the team is on pace to go 0-24 vs. the rest of its division. Despite the hype over Calgary's much vaunted defence, that team still looks incredibly weak defensively (last season they gave up an average of 29 shots per 60 mins....the first two games they are on a whopping 38 shots against per game and have to thank Kipper they are 2W-0L so far). We'll see how long before Brent Sutter's vulcan ears prick up and he whips this team into shape.

The Avs with the retirement of Joe Sakic were supposedly the weak link in the Northwest Division chain but rookie Matt Duchene looks like a faster Doug Gilmour/Bobby Clarke, Paul Stastny (and his Yzerman-ish missing tooth!) is back healthy and the Polish Sausage is on the cusp of being an offensive force.

Wotjek Wolski working out in the off-season


Leaving Minnesota and Edmonton both of which the Canucks see this first month so we'll also see how the Canucks shape up vis a vis their divisional opponents.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Canada's Hidden National Pastime

Although lacrosse is Canada's official national sport (at least since 1994 it's been "official" as far as summer sports go) we know the reality is different. One of the reasons lacrosse lags so far behind other sports on Canadians' radar is marketing pure and simple.

Despite having a fairly fast-paced game (although it does bog down into a Four Corners Dean Smith model more often than '80s Oilers air hockey) with loads of shots and goals, only 2,000+ showed up to Game 4 of the NATIONAL championship of box lacrosse in this nation last night.

Think about that for a second. Short-season Class A baseball draws more for run-of-the-mill weekday nooners here in the Lower Mainland. The entire possible seven-game Mann Cup series would still not fill the Pacific Coliseum for one Vancouver Giants' game. This as the New Westminster Salmonbellies celebrate their 120th anniversary as a sports franchise.

So here we are 120 years in and the most the Western Lacrosse Association (as hosts this year of the Mann Cup) can scrape together is 2,000+ folks to watch their sport played at its highest level.

The athletes are certainly not to blame as they are highly skilled, dedicated and hold down full-time jobs outside their sport. The ticket prices are not as $15 got you in to the Mann Cup Final. So who is to blame?
The price is right

Well, let's forget assigning blame, as I think you can figure out where blame lies when a business is not as popular or successful as it should be. Let's look to solutions.

Now during the game the PA announcer noted the Bellies were on Twitter and Facebook. Now how about adding a few banner ads on Web sites that sports fans may stumble across so they'd actually know when the games were on. Yes, I'm talking Slam, TSN and Sportsnet.

Speaking of which get the game on TV. Forget this nonsense about PPV online as who is honestly going to "pay" to watch lacrosse online when half the world is streaming much more popular sports live illegally or legally over the Net. Get the game at least on Shaw TV as the WHL does. Get some ads on Sportsnet, the Score and TSN. That would be a start. At least we seem to get highlights on most sports channels even if they tend to buried.

Personally, I'd rather see the WLA pool all its teams' resources and get the Vancouver Ravens back in the NLL. Or how about following junior lacrosse and hockey's lead by choosing one host a la the Minto and Memorial Cups respectively? That way the Mann Cup could be promoted year long as a must-see spectacular. As great as the play is in the WLA is, it's as the old analogy goes--"If a tree falls in the forest, does anyone know your game exists on anyone's sports radar?"

All I know is the vast majority of Canadian sports fans are missing a great game and lacrosse in this country needs to take a hard look in the mirror to figure out why our "national" game draws peanuts in the stands and barely registers at all on the national consciousness.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Who's #1 in Team Canada's net?

Shouldn't it be obvious--Martin Brodeur is #30 as is Cam Ward, Marc-Andre Fleury is #29 while Roberto Luongo is #1.

The jersey says it all

To make this clearer to all, let's take a time machine back to the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. Coach Pat Quinn decided to start his own Leaf goalie Curtis Joseph in the first game Team Canada played. The Swedish torpedo attack ripped apart Canada to the tune of 5-2 which included Leaf teammate Mats Sundin on a breakaway making CuJo look silly.

Enter Martin Brodeur and the rest of that tournament was written in gold for Canada. And Sweden, well, Tommy Salo had a tournament to forget. So don't read too much into early results at the Olympics.

Meaning it really doesn't matter who starts the tournament as the #1 goalie as long as the backup(s) are able to step into the crease and bail the team out, if necessary?

As far as the criticism that Luongo seems to choke in the big games, I present the 2004 World Cup semi-final vs. the Czech Republic. With Brodeur injured, Luongo stepped into the breach and backstopped Team Canada with a sensational 37-save performance in a make-or-break game that went to overtime. Vincent Lecavalier's goal at 3:45 of OT won it for Canada 4-3 but the game was really won by our Roberto.

Brodeur returned for the Final and Canada had another "gold" winning the 2004 World Cup 3-2 over Finland.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Punch-ing The Canucks To The Top

In an attempt to one-up the Oil's signing of Grandpa Pat Quinn as coach, the Canucks announced today that Yogi Bear and the entire coaching staff has been fired. In a bold move and in line with its apeing of Habs legend Bill Durnan and naming Roberto Luongo captain, the Nux have decided to go super retro.

GM Mike Gillis woke from his comatose state to declare, "Because of our good luck plucking gems off the Make Beliefs such as Mats Sunbeam and Kyle Fatwood, we are delving into that team's Allan Stanley Cup legacy and bringing some punch to our lineup."

Yes, the new head coach of the Canucks is Punch Imlach's fedora. The fedora will float above the bench all powerful and all knowing to direct the troops to Stanley Cup victory. To entertain fans it will also mispronounce Kevin Bieksa's name as Bieska as a Laff tribute to the Bob Cole Drinking Game and to Frank "Mahalovitch."
More Powerful Than a Paper Bag

Other factions within the organization were hoping to get some serious Roger Neilson white towel crossmarketing going by naming as assistant coach the infamous paper bag that Harold Ballard tried to get Captain Video to wear. Sadly, it lacks a certain ring-a-ding-ding quality and for best results, the fedora always works alone as it did in the Original Six era.

No word yet on whether Pyramid Power will be employed on Canuck sticks to increase goal output in 2009/10.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Too Little Too Late

At least the Nux gave it the old college try but this all could have been avoided if this attack at will game plan was instituted in Game 4.

There has been much gnashing of teeth over Roberto Luongo's play but both goalies in this series were average at best. Luongo's .879 save pct for the series vs. Nikolai Khabibulin's .873 pretty much shows that goaltending was not what turned this series. Yeah, yeah, yeah, Chicago ventilated Bobby Lu for seven goals in Game 6 but the overrated one was playing lousy the entire series. This is also now the second time in two playoff years in which #1 has blown a deciding game in rd. 2. History does repeat itself as the old adage goes.

Also, you'd think a so-called world-class goalie who worshipped at the altar of Grant Fuhr would be a cooler (Chicoutimi?) cucumber in a run-and-gun game. Obviously he's not, as his constant complaining to the officials about being run shows Luongo still has not embraced his dark side. Learn from the master (and holder of four Stanley Cup rings), you want players to stop running you, channel Billy Smith. In the long run, it will pay off, Luuuuuu.

Would someone also point out to our forwards when they break a stick, race to the bench and get another stick or get off. Ditto the defensemen or at least forwards, hand the D-man without a stick a stick.

Certainly, if you step back a bit and look at Game 6 and see what an exciting game it was, that should be the style of play we see the Nux adopt for '09/10. If Luongo is anywhere close to the worth of his contract and rep, the Nux could be headed for Chicago-like glory in 2010, by playing this sort of uptempo game. It certainly beats watching the death by 15-shots-a game style as we saw in Game 4.

The question is will coach Yogi Bear throw caution to the wind or fall back on his usual rope-a-dope tendencies as he did in that infamous Game 4? As a fan of actual hockey (you know, the game where teams skate, pass, hit and shoot) I'm pleading with him, let the players play and stop coaching out their creativity. Mistake-free hockey is a myth perpetrated by coaches like Ken Hitchcock and Jacques Lemaire. It's not soccer on ice so let's see some more 7-5 games next season.

Lastly, would it kill GM Mike Gillis to show some emotion when the camera pans to you after the Canucks score? At least ex-Canuck and current Blackhawks GM Dale Tallon looked like he was into the game. Patience is one thing in building a team but for those two to three hours, how about acting like a fan? Maybe then you can understand how we "fans" feel when we watch this team you put together run us through the emotional ringer minute by minute in a playoff game.

Mr. Mike showing off his Canuck fervor

Anyway, two seasons ago the Nux finished 8th overall and lost in rd. 2. This season the team was 7th overall and again lost in rd. 2. So to those who feel it's been a successful season, the Nux are basically right back where they were two seasons ago after missing the playoffs in '07/08--no better, no worse.

Let's just move on and enjoy the real hockey being played by the Caps and Pens in the East and push for an old WHL-like best-of-9 format next season should these two meet up again.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Plan the Funeral Route?

To the timid goes none of the spoils. Game 6 comes down to that. If the Canucks continue to be outshot and if Roberto Luongo does not step up and prove he is this supposed second coming of Patrick Roy and Dominik Hasek all rolled into one, then we can all start planning the funeral route.

All the Nux really have to do is skate better, get to the loose pucks and get more shots on the man the media think has returned to his '04 Cup winning form. Yes, the Bulin Wall's save pct. of .875 in this series seems as good as his .933 save pct. with the '04 'Ning.

Just another goal in the Wall

Anyhoo, sounds like a simple game plan but executing it may be beyond the Nux.

One major problem is getting to loose pucks requires speed and younger players tend to be speedier and healthier. On that score, the Hawks are miles ahead.

Look at the Hawks doing major damage in this series and their respective ages:
Dave Bolland 22 years old
Andrew Ladd 23
Dustin Byfuglien 24
Patrick Kane 20

It gets worse as you look at the backline:
The oldest regular is Brian Campbell at 29 while the main pairing of Duncan Keith, 25, and Brent Seabrook, 24, are spring chickens compared to the 32-year-old Willie Mitchell and those two other seniors in Mathias Ohlund and Sami Salo.

Not that being an ageist is warranted but remember the Nux D-men over 30 are not named Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Pronger or Scott Niedermayer.



Saturday, May 9, 2009

Who's Hot . . . Who's Not

We're through four games in each of the series in this second round so time to check out who is toasty and who is toasted.

Boston vs. Carolina

Well, who's winning that battle between Eric Staal and Zdeno Chara? The 3-1 series lead that the Canes have pretty much tells you who.

Hot
Jussi Jokinen, Car 3G 3A +2
Eric Staal, Car 4G 1A +2
Marc Savard, Bos 3G 0A -2
Cam Ward, Car .932 save pct

Not
Zdeno Chara, Bos 0G 0A -4

Washington vs. Pittsburgh
This series may go down as one of the greatest ever. Certainly through four games we've seen enough wild hits (and missed hits), shots, saves and classic flubs (Simeon Varlamov's glove hand in Game 4) that you often don't see over seven games in any series. Also, although Alexander Semin has 4 points in the series, he's not scored and is as lazy backchecking as Evgeny Malkin is for the Pens. Speaking of which, one strong game out of four does not do the Art Ross Trophy winner any justice unless Malkin is channeling Patrick Marleau out there.

Hot
Sydney Crosby, Pitt 5G 3A +4
Alexander Ovechkin, Wash 5G 2A +2
Bill Guerin, Pitt 1G 3A +4
Sergei Gonchar, Pitt 1G 3A +2

Not
Alexander Semin, Wash 0G 4A -5
Evgeny Malkin, Pitt 1G 2A -3
Marc-Andre Fleury, Pitt .884 save pct

Detroit vs. Anaheim
Another terrific series that shows why the West is best. In case you're wondering who the best player in the NHL is, you've got to now add Ryan Getzlaf's name in with Crosby and Ovechkin's.

Hot
Ryan Getzlaf, Ana 1G 7A -1
Corey Perry, Ana 3G 3A -1
Nicklas Lidstrom, Det 2G 3A +1
Johan Franzen, Det 4G 1A +3
Chris Pronger, Ana 1G 4A -2
Henrik Zetterberg 2G 2A +1
Jonas Hiller, Ana .933 save pct

Not
Pavel Datsyuk, Det 0G 1A -1
Bobby Ryan, Ana 0G 1A -3

Vancouver vs. Chicago
The most boring series so far in the entire playoffs through two rounds. Somehow Hawks' Coach Q is trying his best to lose this series by playing the wrong goalie. Meanwhile Nux Coach Yogi Bear is doing the same by playing defense first when the Nux had a chance to go up 3-1 in the series. The weirdest stats are the fact that Henrik Sedin has three goals and his brother, Daniel, has none while Patrick Kane has contributed offensively, he has been more of a liability five-on-five.
Lastly, the lead singer of Green Day shows he can play some hockey as he leads all players with five points after four games.

Hot

Dave Bolland, Chi 3G 2A +3
Martin Havlat, Chi 1G 3A +2
Alexander Edler, Van 1G 4A +1
Duncan Keith, Chi 0G 4A +3
Henrik Sedin, Van 3G 1A -2


Dave Bolland's punk rock twin


Not

Willie Mitchell, Van 0G 0A -4
Jonathan Toews, Chi 0G 1A -3
Patrick Kane, Chi 3G 1A -4
Alexander Burrows, Van 0G 1A -1
Nikolai Khabibulin, Chi .867 save pct



Friday, May 8, 2009

The Sky Has Fallen

What was that? I'm talking about the game plan to go to the rope-a-dope mode and try to let a 1-0 lead hold up.

It's bad enough the Nux got only 15 shots on goal but has Yogi Bear lost his mind? The Detroit Red Wings are THE model on how to play to win...CONTROL THE PLAY!

The Nux have the ability and talent now to pin teams deep in their own end, if the coach would just let them. He does at times allow his players to freelance a bit offensively (and this season has been better than last on that score), but the bottom line is this is the most boring series of the four still in progress. Do you really want to cheer on New Jersey West just because it says "Vancouver" on the front of the jersey? Win or lose, this is not the way to play hockey.

All can be rectified in Game 5 but when you have a so-called "world-class" goalie, methinks you can take more chances offensively and you'll be better off. I get why the Nux are afraid of a Chicago team that finished tied for 3rd overall in scoring leaguewide, but I guess winning on the road in Game 3 may have created the disastrous result in Game 4.

Game 3, though, had the Nux up 3-0 and then the rope-a-dope makes some sense. Up 1-0 in Game 4 when there was more than half a game left to play made zero sense.

I know the white towel is the Canuck symbol now but it doesn't mean the team has to throw it in by trying to live by the 1-0 soccer scoreline sword.





Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Is It The Goalie Or The D?

Supposedly Joel Quenneville is a good coach but isn't coaching all about getting the right matchups? So explain to me how after a very average first round vs. the Lames that Coach Q has stuck with Nikolai Khabibulin through the first three games of this series.

Not that Roberto Luongo's one good game out of three excuses him but the Blackhawks have a perfectly good backup in Cristobal Huet who has a 3W 0L record, .914 save pct in '08/09 vs. the Canucks. All Joel had to do was look at Khabibulin's '08/09 record vs. the Nux 0W 2L, .800 save pct. to realize starting Khabibulin was the wrong move.

The Chicago D has certainly done its job limiting the Nux to an average of close to 23 shots a game so, if you want to change the course of this series, Huet better be in goal for your team come Thursday.

Speaking of D, there is a lot of hype over Anaheim's D. Any team that has given up an average of 39 shots per 60 minutes of play is not good. I'm sorry but anyone who saw the non-goal (thanks to a brutal refereeing mistake with a premature whistle) last night that Detroit "didn't" score would have noticed the much ballyhooed Scott Niedermayer giving the puck away behind the Ducks net.

Yes, Niedermayer and Chris Pronger both contribute offensively and are probably two of the better defensemen in the league, but this Cup run the Ducks are currently on is due to one man alone not being a piece of Swiss cheese. Jonas Hiller, take a bow.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Can A Team Be Too Rested?

The Canucks look anything but Cup contenders through two games vs. the Blackhawks. More worrying that Roberto Luongo's .871 save percentage, which you know won't last, is that the three injured players from round one are all on life support.

Sami Salo has been terrific with two goals, including the third period winner in Game 1, but he's now hurt. And, as we all have seen, the Canuck D is only as good as Salo's health is.

Willie Mitchell (who looks like he's still wearing those weirdly tight jeans out there) as he is a -2 so far in the series and gives the Nux zip offensively anyway.

Mats Sundin is back and has 3 assists yet is a -3.

So did all this rest help these three players at all?

Game 3 and 5 will be the key to seeing where this series is headed and really given the shaky goaltending at both ends, the Nux main goal should be matching Chicago shot for shot. Being outshot 62-47 through the home games here on the Great Wet Coast was puzzling given the home ice advantage of being able to match lines. In the United Center's cauldron of noise (not scoreboard induced like here in Vancouver) coach Yogi Bear is going to also have to be better at getting the right matchups.

Add to this Duncan Keith (of the pointless rd. 1) has found his game with 3 pts and a +3 so far and the Blackhawks are riding a high.

Plus this article suggests maybe Dustin Byfuglien is having a greater impact on the series than we thought.

Let's hope the team Luongos brings them down from that high tonight with some inspired roadwork.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sharks Eaten by Ducks?

Well, down goes Frazier and yet another San Jose season as well as another President's Trophywinner who will not be winning Lord Stanley's Cup, but how great an upset was this?

What are you smokin'?
I'll show you who went down

Obviously, the Anaheim Ducks are a team that is basically, bar Andy McDonald and Samuel Pahlsson, virtually the same crew that won the Cup in 2007. Yet some would have you believe this ranks up there with, say, that rookie Ken Dryden leading Montreal to the upset of upsets over the 70/71 Bruins.

Even that upset, a shocking as it was, has others that are far greater in NHL history. I'll admit there are probably some greater ones impact-wise, but I'm looking at this statistically. So sound the horn and let the countdown begin.

10. 1986 Rangers (.488 winning pct) 3 games to 2 over Flyers (.688) 1st rd.
First of all, 1986 was possibly the strangest playoff year ever with the 7th overall Montreal Canadiens (led by rookie goalie Patrick Roy) meeting up with the 6th overall Calgary Flames (thanks to a Steve Smith own goal) in the Final. Yet it all started in rd. 1 with the 78-pt. NY Rangers knocking off the 110-pt. Philly Flyers thanks mainly to bad goaltending (the death of Pelle Lindbergh certainly cemented the Flyers' hopes) and the fact the Rangers realized there were really only two monsters of the plus-minus on the backline on Philly (Mark Howe +86 and Brad McCrimmon +83) and did a great job pounding them throughout the series.

9. 2006 Oilers (.500) 4 games to 2 over Red Wings (.707) 1st rd.
Another strange playoff year with all four lower seeds in the West winning in rd. 1 and Edmonton, of course, riding a career backup goalie in Dwayne Roloson to the Final. It all started with the Oil knocking off the President's Trophy winners. Despite being outshot by a mile in this series Detroit was done in by bad goaltending on the part of Manny Legace.

8. 1938 Black Hawks (.388) 3 games to 1 over Maple Leafs (.594) Final
You thought the NHL playoffs were brutal when they let in the Snorris Division teams back in the '80s. Think again. Truly the worst Stanley Cup champion in the annals of league history. So the Black Hawks (yes, pre-Blackhawks without the "space") victory led to the NHL waking up and changing the playoff format so such under .500 teams would never again win it all. The league realizing that the best-of-three in the earlier rounds leading to a then best-of-five format for the Final could produce such stinky champions (although they were the first NHL team to sprinkle close to half their lineup with Americans) as a team over a 48-game regular season that was 11 games under .500 (translates to '08/09 New York Islander-like 63-point season) had to go. The '38/39 season saw, at least one semi-final (don't even ask about the rest of the playoff format back then) and the final switched to a best-of-seven series.
The story doesn't end there, for one of the starngest NHL rulings and goalie switch controversies check out the story of the 1938 Final here.

7. 1981 Rangers (.463) 4 games to 2 over Blues (.669) QF
Oh, my those Rangers do love to pull off those upsets. After this stinkbomb laid by the Mike Liut-led Blues, why did Team Canada pick him to play goal in the 1981 Canada Cup? Anyone remember that Final--USSR 8-Canada 1. Thank you, Mike Liut.

6. 1991 North Stars (.425) 4 games to 2 over Blues (.656) 2nd rd.
On the other side of that Ranger coin, I give you the underachieving St. Loser Blues for yet another collapse. This North Stars team provided thrill ride after thrill ride until the bubble burst as Mario and Co. destroyed them 8-0 in Game 6 of the Stanely Cup Final to take home the Pens' first Cup.

5. 1991 Stars (.425) 4 games to 2 over Blackhawks (.663) 1st rd.
President's Trophy Hawks go down and yet another Mike Keenan (see the '86 Flyers) team gets upset early on. The North Stars rode the sensational tending of Jon Casey in 1991 as well as the fie scoring of a certain Canuck employee by the name of Dave Gagner (oh, and Brian Bellows and Neal Broten were no slouches either).
I'm no Dave Gagner, though

4. 1951 Canadiens (.464) over Red Wings (.721) semi-finals
What is it with both the Habs pulling off upsets and the Wings in their monster seasons ('51, '53, '92-'96) losing the plot? Whatever the case, at least in '51 the Habs did not go on and fluke another Cup as the Buds were actually great back then with the '51 Cup their fourth in five seasons.

3. 1945 Maple Leafs (.520) over Canadiens (.800) semi-finals
Look at the Habs' winning percentage. In a 50-game schedule they lost just 8 times. Sure it was a War year but loads of players began returning to their teams as the campaign in Europe wound down. Plus Detroit finished 13 points back! It would be like San Jose finishing first overall with 131 points and the second-best team having 110 points. This was the year the Rocket got his 50 goals in 50 games and the Punch Line (Maurice Richard, Toe Blake and Elmer Lach) finished 1-2-3 in league scoring. It was also the season The Leafs went on to win the Cup in a seventh game in Detroit thanks to rookie goalie Frank McCool (the man who has his own McCool arena) starting off the Finals with three straight shutout wins. For more bizarre trivia, the 1945 Wings clawing back from that 0-3 deficit in games was eerily similar to the 1942 Leafs down 0-3 to the Wings and legendary comeback to win it all in seven.

2. 1930 Canadiens (.580) over Bruins (.875) Final
What is it about Boston and Montreal? Well, this is where it all started. The '29/30 season was one of radical change. The NHL instituted new rules that season allowing forward passing in the offensive zone. If you can believe it, up till then the only forward passing was in your own end and the neutral zone. Then midway through the season because players basically goalsucked the modern offside rule at the bluelines was introduced. No matter how they tinkered with the rules, the Bruins of Eddie Shore and the Dynamite Line of Cooney Weiland, Dit Clapper and Dutch Gainor (now if that doesn't win the All-Name Line, just call me Seppo Repo, put me in an envelope and mail me to Finland) managed to average 4.1 goals a game and the previous season they led the NHL at a 2.0 goals a game clip. The Habs upset led to the Final from 1931 being a best-of-five. the bizarre thing was in 1930 the B's semi was a best-of-five (the Habs one was a best-of-three so, like I said, you thought the playoff system was confusing back in the '70s...think again).

1. 1982 Kings (.394) 3 games to 2 over Oilers (.694) 1st rd.
The Oilers (14th overall with 74 points) fresh off their first playoff foray the previous spring--an Andy Moog inspired three-game upset sweep of the 101-point Montreal Canadiens. Wayne Gretzky of the 50 goals in just 39 games on his way to a record destroying 92-goal, 212-point season. An NHL record 417 goals for. Rookie Grant Fuhr establishing himself in the Oiler net despite Moog's presence.
Let me take you back to Game 4 at the Fabulous Forum in L.A. Series tied 1-1. The Kings in their gold uniforms with the gold pants and socks. The Oilers mocking the Kings by singing "Here we go Oilers, here we go" on the bench after building up a 5-o lead. That Glen Sather smirk behind said bench.
Cue the Miracle on Manchester. The shellshocked Oilers had nothing left in Game 5 and bowed out 7-4 on home ice. Lesson learned (sort of...the '83 Final vs. the Isles and the '86 loss to the Lames aside) as the Oil Dynasty was merely derailed a year or so.
No smirkin' for you in '82


Monday, April 20, 2009

History Swept Aside?

With a 3-0 lead in the series with St. Louis, the Nux have not only set team playoff history but can set even more history. For the record this is first time the Canucks have ever led a best-of-seven playoff series three games to none. This means, of course, come Tuesday's Game 4 we may witness the first sweep by a Vancouver team in a seven-game series.



The Nux have swept just one team in their entire playoff history whipping the Lames 3 games to none in a best-of-five series back in 1982.

Sweep! Sweep!

So channeling the 1982 ghost of Richard Brodeur ("Hey, I'm still alive!")--sweep those Blues!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

How The Other Half Watches The Game

When you have never been in a luxury box, I imagined it being a magical place like a cross between Hef's Mansion and super executive class on Virgin Airlines. Well, burst my bubble, will ya!

Game 2 of the St. Louis Blues and Vancouver Canucks I was able to hornswoggle my way (thanks to my brother's connections) into a luxury box at GM Place. The suite is in the 500 level so these are the so-called "penthouse" suites. No signs of any Penthouse-like models and obviously being this high up meant you were closer to the roof than the action. Even so the view is a lot better than I imagined. We were in a suite in the corner and the corners are much closer to the rink than the luxury boxes on the sides. This meant an almost bird's eye view of the play.

The view from Chopper 9

Within the box itself are 14 seats where fans can sit "outside" and soak up the crowd atmosphere. The front row of (four + four) seats with an aisle between are fronted by a glass wall. That allows for a scary, but great view, and it's something all NHL arenas should consider. "Why not make all front row seat walls even in the upper deck see-through like the ones at the St. Paul Civic Center (the former home of the WHA's Minnesota Fighting Saints)," adds Wayne Connelly.

The back rows have three seats on each side and directly above that is a bar counter with three stools on each side. So the seating capacity of the luxury box is a de facto 20 but 24 tickets I'm informed can be sold per box.

The one problem with the way the seating is set up is the people in the seats in front of you block your view even more than those leaning on railings do in the upper deck. The huge advantage, though, if you are stuck behind a person with a huge cranium is you are not stuck in that particular seat for the entire game. Even though you are often with total strangers (yes, although corporations rent luxury boxes for employees and clients not everyone will know everyone else) people are cool above shifting around seat-wise. Plus if you are sitting on the stools or standing, it's easy enough to readjust your viewing position.

That vertigo-inducing view does have its good points. By being up high you get a better feel for the ebb and flow of the game. You can certainly see how play develops, especially the breakouts, and your eye is even often able to discern line matchups far better. I can certainly see now why scouts, assistant coaches on the headsets, GMs and wirewalkers like to be high above it all.

Now being in a box I assumed fans there would be more into schmoozing than cheering. That is another myth exploded judging from the box I was in. There were the requisite Trevor Linden lovers in their Linden jerseys albeit in current or vintage retro stick logo jerseys (note to Linden fans: next time get the 1994 Cup run jersey or the one he wore as a rookie), and they cheered as wildly as any of the other fans.

The added bonus, despite the ready availability of booze, not a single person turned into a drunken suburban yahoo. And, yes, the booze, the soft drinks, the water and the food are all inclusive for the jaw dropping (and this is a discounted rate) of $10,000 for the luxury box and the $300+ per ticket. So if you are ever invited to a luxury box, you can leave your wallet at home. Then again even with wads of cash on hand, you might want to eat and drink elsewhere beforehand.

The food mainly leaves a lot to be desired. I heard in other years there was often a nice buffet set out before the game but recessionary times means cashing in the food stamps. Snacks ranged from the incredibly bland (ordinary potato chips--no fancy schmanzy salt 'n' vinegar for you, mateys) to the shockingly cold popcorn. Spicy Buffalo wings and Boston pizza did show up during the first intermission and another couple of pizzas were dropped off during the second intermission. Sadly, if you're looking to be eating peeled grapes and drinking flutes of champagne while dining on filet mignon and Atlantic lobster, this isn't the place.

For your eyeballs, there are TV monitors galore. A bunch hang from the ceilings so fans in the luxury box seats can watch replays or follow the play as it goes along. There is also a ubiquitous flatscreen TV in the room itself so as you lounge on the sofas you can watch the game and...the game...and that's pretty much it. Though the logic of watching a game that you can see live by just turning your head to the left escapes me.

Does the TV show other games? Allow you to change channels and watch "Seinfeld" reruns, if the game gets boring? Pop in a DVD and enjoy the surround sound? Does the main scoreboard HD jumbotron do the same? I rest my case.

Lastly, you need to go to the bathroom? No need to line up with the masses. You have your own toilet in the suite. In fact you need never associate with the rest of the crowd. You enter GM place through your own gate (Gate 10) and can take an elevator up to your suite. In fact, during those ugly winter nights where you bundle up in layers then pray that some fool behind you doesn't spill a beer or expunge anything worse on your clothes is gone in a luxury box even if that same fool somehow is in your suite. The suite comes with a cloakroom to hang up all jackets and coats. What a concept!

As far as the game went, you saw it, Roberto Luongo won it thanks to some posts and crossbars that compensated for a shaky glove hand . The Canucks played well in period one then went into a defensive stupor and allowed St. Loo to skate. Going back to the Gateway City and, if Andy Murray can get the right line matchups, keep your eye on Andy McDonald. He looked like a guy who knows where to go and what to do with the puck. Problem for the Blues is Bobby Lu has had his number so far on those one-timers.

Plus, Canuck fans, after almost 40 years of NHL hockey, here is the rule:
You razz the opposing goalie when he lets in a shaky goal or makes a shaky save. And is "Mason, you suck" and "Mason sucks" really the best you can conjure up after 12 years of the BC education system and maybe even a few years beyond that at Whatsamatta U?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Luuuuuu-cic!


Boston and Montreal did not disappoint in Game 1. As a lapsed B's fan, that was Bruins hockey--hits galore and a bunch of no-names (apologies to the Big Bad Bruins and the those guys in the pic to your left).

This got me thinking: How did the Canucks miss out on B's fan fave Milan Lucic who grew up in East Van, played his junior hockey here with the Giants as well as captained Team Canada juniors during the Russian junior tour here? Not to mention lifting both a 2006 WHL championship and a 2007 Memorial Cup.

Lucic went in the second rd. of the 2006 Entry Draft at 50th overall. The Canucks (thank you, david Nonehead!) had no second rd. pick in '06. They did select a WHL player in Michael Grabner an Austrian scoring winger who played for the Spokane Chiefs.

Maybe Grabner will end up in the NHL but, for argument's sake, let's say he turns into a consistent 30-goal scorer. Odds are Lucic will be that in a few years with the added bonus he can hit and fight like a Neely.

Given the Vancouver Giants are one of the winningest teams in junior hockey and the Canucks have yet to draft a single player from the local WHL team and the team is right here in town to scout easily not only their games but their practices out in Ladner...I'm just saying, sometimes the grass is greener closer to home.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

One Done

Day one of the playoffs are done and ho hum. Not exactly the start we needed.

Philly didn't really show up and given they now have Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn healthy (unlike in '08 when the Flyers met the Pens in rd. 3), that "performance" was totally unimpressive.

Calm down, boys, it's only Game 1

The Canes also seemed to have not set the alarm and the Devils easily disposed of them in Game 1.

The Canucks, well, got lucky as they took dumb penalties (although that evened out as St. Loo did, too) and will someone tell Mats Sundin that he is no longer playing for the Make Beliefs. The hit of the game was the bowling pins toppling as David Perron and Kyle Wellwood bonked each other in the heads accidentally methinks.

There were some comments about the crowd but I thought they were into it and given we're never going to be a Ranger or Blackhawk crowd, but for Vancouver, it was decent. Even so, enough with the lunacy of celebrating a Game 1 win in the streets like we won the Cup. It's Game 1 in rd. 1, folks. Mr. Obvious says, "There's still a lot of hockey to be played before the fat lady sings."

At least in Game 1 in Washington Alexander Ovechkin realized it was the playoffs as he was on fire. It'll be a shame if the Caps get eliminated but it's a distinct possibility given the sieve-like qualities of Jose Theodore. Much has been said about his record of getting out of the first round and not much about his overall poor 19W and 26L record in the playoffs coming into Game 1.

The playoffs have started, comrades!

Let's not forget Henrik Lundqvist has a pretty good rd. 1 record these past two playoffs he's been involved in, and he's got Sean Avery doing his best Ken Linseman impression. That "oops, did I pick you" move was brilliant and led to a crucial goal. Say what you want about his mouth but the guy IS a hockey player.

Come on, Boston and Montreal, tonight show the rest of the NHL how it's done.





Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bring On The Real Season!

The NHL playoffs are finally here and I can wake from my slumber.
I'm sure all fans are scouring every source for info and insight so here are a few thoughts you may or may not be aware of when making your playoff pool choices:

1. It's the D-Fence, Man!
So much emphasis is placed on having a hot goalie but if you dig a bit deeper you'll notice most Cup-winning teams have a Bobby Orr/Larry Robinson/Denis Potvin/Paul Coffey Norris Trophy (or Norris Trophy-like) offensive defenceman on them. This accomplishes two main goals--getting the puck out of your own end when under pressure situations and getting it up to forwards in full flight.
Never chuck a Norris Trophy D-man away

Just have a look at the Cup winners since 2000 and their leading D scorers:
2001 Avs
Rob Blake

2002 Wings
Nicklas Lidstrom (playoff MVP)

2003 Devils
Scott Niedermayer (runner-up in overall playoff scoring)

2004 Lightning
Dan Boyle

2006 Canes
Dave Babych's alumni moustache

2007 Ducks
Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer (playoff MVP)

2008 Wings
Nicklas Lidstrom

The only team throughout that span, and in fact the only team since maybe the Broad Street Bullies, to not have a Norris Trophy-like stud back on the D-line was the Carolina Hurricanes of 2006. Their team D of Frantisek Kaberle, Bret Hedican, Niclas Wallin, Aaron Ward, Mike Commodore, Glen Wesley and Oleg Tverdovsky was enough to bag a Cup.

Is one exception enough to give the Canucks hope? Let's face facts here, the Nux's D-man closest to a Norris Trophy guy is Kevin Bieksa and so far he's not even a Jovo yet. So Roberto Luongo is going to have to stand on his head a la Cam Ward (or would that mean Jason La(Hanna)Barbera will step in a la Ward did when Martin Gerber looked shaky in rd. 1 in '06?).



2. Repeat?
Used to be you could bank on the losing Finalist from the previous season either missing the playoffs altogether or losing in rd. 1. You have to go back to 2001 to find a losing Finalist (Dallas Stars) to find a team who made it past rd. 1...where they promptly got upset in rd. 2 by the St. Louis Blues.
Now the Cup winners are finding the short off-season is affecting them, too.
Three of the last four Cup winners have lost in rd. 1 and one ('07 Carolina Hurricanes) missed the playoffs entirely.
Add to that, not since 2001 has a defending Cup champ made it back to the Final.

One common thread is there is a correlation between their followup regular seasons. Since 2002 every single Cup champ has fallen in the overall standings. Some have a short fall such as 1st to 3rd overall (the '03 Wings who lost in rd. 2) and others fall from 2nd overall to 16th (the '06 'Ning who lost in rd. 1).
Takkoyaki anyone?

So with the Wings dropping from 1st overall to 3rd (while giving up 60 more goals thanks to Chris Osgood's sparkling .887 save percentage among other things), be very scared of the Wings turning into the Dead Things as they try to repeat.

3. Much ado about being a top four seed
The media here was all atwitter about the Canucks needing to get one of the top four seeds because apparently they've only just discovered that the Cup champions tend to come from teams that gain home-ice advantage in at least one round of the playoffs.

Yes, that is true but it is also true good teams WIN Cups and good teams tend to win more games than other teams hence they tend to be higher up in the standings. Do I need to go on?

The point is really: Are the Canucks good enough to win a Cup as they are built right now?

Probably not quite unless they can use the '06 Canes as inspiration given their lack of a true D-stud.

The bigger question is: Why worry about gaining home-ice? It's not like the NHL is the NBA where the teams gaining the home court so totally dominates their playoffs.

Just have a quick look at the results for the team with the home-ice advantage in first rd. matchups since 2001:

EAST
#1 seed vs. #8 seed
6W 1L

#2 vs. #7
4W 3L

#3 vs. #6
4W 3L

#4 vs. #5
5W 2L

WEST
#1 vs. #8
6W 1L

#2 vs. #7
4W 3L

#3 vs. #6
3W 4L

#4 vs. #5
4W 3L

Obviously the teams that top the conference are the best in the regular season and getting that #1 seed seems to be an overwhelming odds-on good bet in rd. 1. For the rest of the matchups, it's only a slight advantage for teams having home-ice advantage having a W-L series record of 24W 18L.

Plus it was only three seasons ago that the #8 seed Oilers got to the Final and before that it was the #5 seed Flames representing the West in the Final. Rolling back one more season, the Ducks' first appearance in the Final was as a #7 seed.

So getting to the Final can be accomplished as a lower seed but, so far, no lower seed other than the Devils in the '95 lockout season winning their first Cup as a #5 seed.

Maybe, just maybe, it's not so much the seeding but the quality of the team. Good teams tend to be higher seeds. Good teams tend to win Cups.

It's not as if the Cup winners never ever play in a series after rd. 1 as the "underdog" and do not have home-ice advantage. To wit, the #2 seed Ducks beat the #1 seed Wings in the '07 Western Conference Final.

4. Meet me in St. Louis

The Arch de Bernie Federko

Like most fans, I was hoping the Canucks drew the Blackhawks in rd. 1 as win or lose that was going to be entertaining playoff hockey. The dread was drawing the Blue Jackets given the way Ken Hitchcock teams play (although surprisingly against the Canucks there have been a few higher scoring games over the years including this season's 6-5 shootout game) and the scary fact that Steve Mason is one of those hot rookie goalies the playoffs love.
So the compromise choice of the St. Louis Blues, who up until almost the last weekend had not even clinched a playoff spot let alone were able to claw their way past two teams into the #6 seed slot.
So now two of the hottest teams in the second half of the season are matched up and if the Canucks cannot put pucks past the ex-Nashville Preds' backup goalie Chris Mason then he must have turned into Dwayne Roloson of the '06 Oil.
Just remember to have that '03 playoff backup plan when the Blues were up 3-1 on the Nux, and biological warfare was unleashed. The Blues squad came down with the flu and lost that series in seven.

5. If this is Tuesday, this must be Belgium
Ever since the NHL decided to "grow the game" and play regular season hockey outside North America, there has been on constant: The teams that go doom their playoff seasons.

'97/98 Canucks vs. Mighty Ducks in Tokyo
Both teams missed the '98 playoffs. OK, so the '96/97 Canucks were not a playoff team but they did have the hype of adding Mark "the False Messiah" Messier in the off-season and the Ducks had made the playoffs in '97.

'98/99 Flames vs. Sharks in Tokyo
The Flames missed the playoffs but again they were not a playoff team in '97/98. The Sharks did make the playoffs but lost in rd. 1.

'00/01 Penguins vs. Nashville in Tokyo (actually in the suburb of Omiya to be factual)
The Preds missed the playoffs as they did also in '99/00. The Pens, on the other hand, broke the overseas curse and as a # 5 seed made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. Helps to have the NHL's leading scorer in Jaromir Jagr, I guess.

'07/08 Kings vs. Ducks in London
The Kings followed their '06/07 season of non-playoffs with the same in '07/08. The defending Cup champs, (the now not Mighty anymore) Ducks were shockingly upset in rd. 1 thanks to a Dallas Stars powerplay that was on fire thanks to the late season pickup of Brad Richards from the 'Ning

So where does that leave the '08/09 teams that journeyed to Sweden and the Czech Republic.

'08/09 Sens vs. Penguins in Stockholm
We all know the story of the Sens' season that has ended in missing the playoffs for the first time since '96. The Pens also had a rough season having Sergei Gonchar injured for much of the season resulting in coach Michel Therrien's firing and all this hype now that the Crosby Malkins under new coach Dan Bylsma being the popular sleeper pick for the Final.
Don't believe the hype. Even if they channel the ghost of the '01 Jaromir Pens, odds are not good for the Pens...they'll even be up against it trying to get past a hot (top D-men Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn who missed the '08 Conference Final due to injuries are healthy) Flyers' team that has the overlooked goalie Martin Biron playing his best hockey since the All-Star break (.924 save pct. in the second half).

'08/09 Rangers vs. 'Ning in Prague
The 'Ning woes have been well documented. Let's just say hiring a coach who has spent 13 years away from the bench and signing free agents willy (Lindstrom) nilly is not exactly the way to get back in the playoffs. The Rangers also struggled mainly to score which resulted in Tom Renney losing his job and Torts being parachuted in.
Certainly, the NYR are capable of pulling off an upset over the Caps, but again are you really betting your subprime mortgage on this happening?

6. Why are you starting me against the Isles?
I've talked about this before but teams that ride a goalie hard playing them over 70 GP end up flopping badly in the playoffs. They may advance past rd. 1 but often that's as far as they go.
Even topping that 65 GP mark can be dodgy.
This season saw Miikka Kiprusoff again being played to death with 76 GP and that cannot be a good omen. The season the Flames went to the Final, Kipper played all of 38 GP.
The only other playoff goalie at the 70 GP level is the Rangers' King Henrik.

The good news for Canuck fans is Bobby Luuuu only played 54 GP rather than his usual 70+ GP.

The biggest question on the GP front is "Can the man with his own Web site finally prove he doesn't need the two Scotts (Niedermayer and Stevens) to go deep in the playoffs?" Given his measly 31 GP in '08/09, he is as rested as Marc-Andre Fleury (35 GP in '07/08) was last season and we all know how far the Pens went in '08. Then again it all started to go sideways fro Marty when he went from his team-first mask to the me-first mask he now sports. There is no MB in team, Martin.

7. Who to pick?
Lastly, who do you pick in your NHL playoff pool. Obviously, you need to have players on teams that go deep but a good indictaion of who's hot and who's not is to look at the playoff pool stats pack from our good friends at Sportsnet. The predictions I leave to you.
Even Pam knows Fin performs better in the playoffs

Monday, April 13, 2009

Does It Get Any More Surreal Than This?

Words cannot do justice to the Spokane Chiefs vs. Vancouver Giants Game 5 playoff game held Fri., Apr. 10 7:30 p.m. which finished on Sat., Apr. 11 at 12:45 a.m.--119 shots on goal, numerous posts and crossbars, stupid penalties (especially by Evander Kane and Lance Bouma) and all of 5 goals over the 126:05 of play.

The OTs were beyond bizarre.

First there's all that dead time with the 15-minute intermissions between each OT period where you try to kill time by walking around the arena, stretching and yawning and looking at the clock hoping it goes faster. Someone was definitely better prepared as a woman in front of us had a book she brought along.

Mostly, we spent the time thinking should we eat something? I mean, what does one eat at midnight? Popcorn? Peanuts? Ice cream? The scoreboard asked us at one point "Should we order pizza?" which drew a huge round of applause.
The PNE at least kept concessions open throughout which is something that did not happen at GM Place back in '06 during the Canucks' 5-OT game vs. Dallas.
And I did catch a White Spot burger in one of the OT giveaways that I passed along to my hungry nephew sitting next to me.

The in-arena DJ also had all the appropriate songs (albeit nothing really from any decade after the '70s so what does that say about the state of arena rock music?) cued up when the clock struck 12--Eric Clapton's "After Midnight," the Rolling Stones' "Midnight Rambler," etc. (Sadly missing was Wilson Pickett's "In the Midnight Hour," but I digress.)

The OTs do zoom right along without all the TV ads and timeouts.
The second OT was tremendous and probably the best period of the game.
The third OT it was sluggo hockey with the players having zero energy by then.
It didn't help that the Giants version of Krazy George came by our section to bang his drum. At 7:30 p.m. this is very enjoyable. After midnight not so much especially with one's ear drums literally three feet from the drum itself. Meanwhile other people were sleeping across chairs as building began emptying out quite a lot after the third OT.

Then mercifully in the fourth OT, after a Casey Pierro-Zabotel giveaway trying to work for the perfect shot resulted in a turnover semi-breakaway by Blake Gal that ended up with the G-men's Mike Berube somehow trying to lift Gal's stick but ending up putting it in his own net for an own goal, it was over.

Also, on a side note, we sat right next to Evander Kane's schoolage sisters and their (I assume) granddad right down there in row 8. They made it to the end of the game, too.

What can I say but I sort of feel like those falling businessmen in a Magritte painting. Why was I there? What just happened? Did I really sit through two entire hockey games plus in one sitting?

Overtime meets Belgian surrealism

After Spokane's winning goal what was left of the 8,948 fans sat in stunned silence for about a good 30 seconds . . . and then rose and gave the teams a standing ovation.

A night . . . and morning to remember.

Then last night the Giants somehow solved Spokane goalie Dustin Tokarski in double OT to win Game 6 to tie up this epic series at three games each.

Game 7 goes Tuesday and I'll get back to you, if I survive that.