Saturday, June 08, 2002

End of the Second Overtime: Is there anything as exciting as sudden death overtime? At this rate we get a whole second game, but all of it on "pins and needles." The Wings are playing much better than the 'canes, IMHO. That doesn't mean much now. I'm sure Charles Tupper will have the plays diagrammed for you shortly ;->
Double Overtime: As I write this there is 11:25 to go in the second overtime period. I could swear that the goal posts are wearing 'cane uniforms. What was that FIVE shots off the post? Gotta go there's a power play...

Friday, June 07, 2002

Joe Louis Arena

Poor bastard. Euphemistically speaking, of course.

Thursday, June 06, 2002

This is one slick deal. The owners of the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers have convinced the Alberta Government and Premier Ralph Klein to tax NHL players and direct those funds, less administration, back to the Alberta teams. The NHLPA is fuming and has filed a grievance against the two clubs and the NHL owners. Politically, Klein has killed two birds with one stone. There was huge resentment in Alberta that public lottery money was being used to subsidize owner millionaires. Yet seeing the Flames and Oilers go south would also have been a black mark against the once hard drinking Klein. The NHL was also hot for compensation for provincial use of team logos to promote the lottery. Brian Burke of the Canucks is steamed and has long wanted to commence legal action against the B.C. government and its lottery. Now Klein is happy, the Flames and Oilers are happy, Alberta hockey fans are gleeful and NHL players and the American taxpayers (the tax will be deductible in the U.S.) will foot the bill.

If you haven't noticed it yet, look for the Red Wings Left Wing Lock in Game 3. Essentially, the LOCK allows the Centre and the Right Winger to force the play to the left side of the ice. The ice is pre-divided into three zones with the Left Wing responsible for the left side, the Left Defense for the middle zone and the Right Defense for the right side. The Centre and Right Wing will chase the opposing player to the left zone. The Left Winger stays in his zone along with the opposing Right Wing. If the opposing Right Wing moves across ice in front of the Detroit D the Left Winger stays in his zone through the neutral area. Once in the Red Wing end of the rink play reverts to man on man.

As a player and a coach I never liked this drill. It is designed to enhance a goalie's lateral movement by facing random shots from unknown sources. However, all too often players treat it like shooting a fish in a barrel. I much preferred to have the players in motion in an oval to the left and right of the goalie. A player shoots from no further away than the hash marks on the circle, but first must announce where he is placing his/her shot. The goalie faces a situation that more realistically emulates a game condition (stopping one or two rebounds after the initial shot) and allows the player to practice accomplishing a pre-determined objective. Goalies liked it because there is a much lower chance of injury.

Matt, what do you think?

Teams winning Game 2 of the championship series have gone on to win the Stanley Cup in 25 of the last 30 seasons, although the loser of Game 2 has won the title in each of the last two seasons. BBC is stalled and Brind'Amour was lucky to get one on a giveaway. More importantly the Wings kept Francis and O'Neill off the score sheet, which cuts Carolina's goal production in half. It is essential that the Wings continue to get production from their other lines because Stevie, Sir Guy, and Shanny cannot keep their powder dry.
No overtime today. It was a tense game until late in the third. Once they scored it popped the baloon. It looks like the Wings are waking up.
Overtime is Hurricane time. Jacques Demers, who coached the Canadiens to the Cup in 1993, writes about confidence gained from overtime winning streaks:
We lost our first overtime game to the Quebec Nordiques, which put us down 2-0 in our first-round series. Then we won our next 10 overtime games, which remains a record. It was unreal. We got to a point where we knew we were going to win, even though a lot of people around us were saying that we were bound to lose one.

But we didn't...
Carolina is 7-1 in playoff overtime games this year (winning the last 5). So long as Hasek doesn't take things into his own hands by slipping into an unconscious goaltending state, as he is known to do, I think the Canes have a legitimate shot.

Note to Charles T: I can't imagine anyone coveting Irbe's ugly melon-protector, but if he leaves it on the bench between periods in Detroit he might want to check it for octipi before putting it back on.
From a dispirited Boston fan: Just got this note from Eric Leboff:
It's been a disappointing playoff year for me with Boston going out so early, but i think the finals will be much closer, game-by-game, than several others in recent years (FLA-COL, PHI-DET, WAS-DET) if the Canes can somehow take game 2 it would be quite interesting, though Detroit could rebound from even that, as they did in the Vancouver series.

I fear Boston will lose both Guerin and DaFoe. There's even talk of trading Samsonov to Calgary for Derek Morris. I wouldn't do it. There's always someone who can help the powerplay (maybe Zubov for Sweeney) without discarding one of our most promising youngsters.

Personally, I think the Stars would have to be high to make the Zubie for Sweeney trade....
What the Hell is Wrong With the Blues?

As a St. Louis resident and hockey watcher, albeit a novice at hockey management and strategy, allow me to offer the following problems with the Blues:

1. Goaltending, for years the Blues have had to rely on a second tier goalie. That ca get them through the regular season and a round or two, but they'll never win the Stanley Cup without a top notch goalie.

2. The Blues stars aren't as good as they are made out to be. Neither Tkachuk (whom I love) or Weight, or Pronger, or MacInnis can carry the team on their shoulders for long. Notice how Brett Hull is winning championships with Dallas (and presumably Detroit) once he accepted that he wasn't the "star" of the team. In St. Louis, he could be nothing but THE STAR.

3. Too much emphasis on a few stars and not a lot of depth. Subjective call, but why do Pronger and MacInnis log 35+ minutes a game all year?

4. Lack of a killer instinct.

5. I don't know how to quantify it, but a lack of "chemistry." I think Quenville is a good coach, but the pieces just don't fit well together.

6. The Blues are still recovering from the punitive actions the NHL took against them some years back. The lost some real talent and that was a deep hole that it doesn't seem they have climbed out of yet.

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

Other news: Chris Pronger has had knee surgery, he's expected to sit out until 2003. That should give St. Louis some time to figure out what their god-damned problem is.

Word out of NYC is that Bryan Trottier has (in the minds of Islander fans) gone over to the dark side and will become the head coach of the rival Rangers.
Detroit in five?: I made my prediction to my friends yesterday. This puts me right on schedule. I want Carolina to win, but I just can't see Detroit not doing so over the course of the series.

But it was certainly grand to see Ronnie score the winner. And even better to see the stunned Detroit faces all around the "Joe".

(Sunshine) you, Detroit!

Tuesday, June 04, 2002

Matt: Will a Red Wing's fan steal Irbe's mask off the bench before this series ends? Apparently he leaves it there during periods as part of his ritual.

Martin: I cried, hell I cry at all movies.

Eric: Don't take that equivalency crap! "Remember the Alamo and Remember Goliad!"
Eric: "C'mon, who cried when old yeller got shot? No one! yeah, right. I cried. Raise your hands, C'mon..."
HockeyTown overconfident: I love overtime games. The Detroit defense broke down on the goal in OT. How could they let Francis camp out in front of the net like that? He was squatting there so long he could have pitched a tent and started roasting marshmallows.

I didn't give my prediction before, but I would have picked Detroit in 6. I'll still go with that. I think that this loss will wake the Wing up, but perhaps they need another loss for that. We'll see.
Ouch! Looks like Carolina only needed a little more than 3 periods to get that split I said they needed. ESPN is panning the crowd in Detroit right now, and I haven't seen this many long faces since Old Yeller died.
A finals first. USA Today:
The goaltending matchup between the Czech Republic's Dominik Hasek (Detroit) and Latvia's Arturs Irbe (Carolina) marks the first time two European goalies have met in the NHL championship series. No European goalie has ever led an NHL team to a Stanley Cup.
Charles T: Irbe was the Sharks' goaltender in '94. Admittedly, I had to check to be sure because I was living in Western Australia that year and wasn't able to follow the NHL very closely. While in Perth, however, I did have the opportunity to play in a local club league, which was great fun. No offense to Aussies, but playing ice hockey Downunder made me feel like a Vezina Trophy winner.

Eric, I agree with your analysis, but I'm sticking with my prediction.

UPDATE: Howard: never say never.
The best trophy in sports: The LA Times has a nice feature article of the history of the Stanley Cup (reg. req'd):
There are tales of a drunken celebration lasting through the night, ending with the cup being dropped into Ottawa's Rideau Canal in the 1920s. In 1962, a Canadien fan, unhappy that his team was losing in the semifinals to the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks, stole the cup from its display case in Chicago Stadium, although he didn't get out of the building with it. Montreal fans struck again in the 1970s, this time swiping the cup from the Hall of Fame.
New York center Mark Messier took the cup to a strip club after the Rangers won in 1994. Such things are now prohibited under the "within reason" clause.
"I think what makes it so special is the history of it," Mighty Duck captain Paul Kariya said. "It's obviously such a prized possession, but at the same time it's treated like ... uh ... haphazardly."

The article has many more stories like that.
Conversely, O'Neill and Francis have combined for five (50%) of the ten goals Carolina scored against Toronto. If the Canes do not control Detroit's third and fourth lines it will be a short series.
In June of 1998. . . I can remember travelling to McLean, Virginia on a very pleasant Spring evening to join a friend of mine in watching game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals. For hockey fans in and around Washington, D.C., the Finals would prove a bitter dessert after what had been the most exciting playoff run in Capitals history. After three one goal victories by Detroit (which really weren't as close as the scores indicated), I got to watch game 4 in person.

Now, anytime you can go to a Stanley Cup Finals game, you should never pass it up -- especially if it's a game were you might actually get to see the Cup awarded to the series winner. Nevertheless, for Caps fans, it was an evening of indignities. On top of the eventual 4-1 loss, we also had to contend with an arena that was filled to the rafters with Red Wings fans who had made the trip from Detroit. From the opening faceoff it felt like you were in Hockeytown USA, and it wasn't a case where you had to close your eyes to do it as Red Wings jerseys seemed to outnumber Caps jerseys by at least 2-1.

But even though I had to sit through a loss, the night still created some great memories. As time ticked down in the third period, the tv cameras in the arena turned to Vladimir Konstantinov, the Wings defenseman who had been permanently disabled both mentally and physically in a car accident just days after the Wings' Cup victory in 1997. With Konstantinov's image on the scoreboard, the crowd rose as one to give him a heartfelt ovation. One that he acknowledged the best he could with a stiff wave that probably took all the strength he had.

The Wings even brought Konstantinov down on the ice in his wheelchair, and made sure he got part of a lap with the Cup too.

Tonight, it's four years later, but the situation seems much the same. Underdog team from the East faces one of the best teams in the history of the NHL. Underdog team busts through a broken field in the East with a combination of stellar goaltending and disciplined defensive play, just like the Caps in 1998.

But that's where the similarity ends. Let's see why:

1. Team Speed: The Caps of 1998 were a lumbering bunch. Their attack was keyed by Adam Oates, a consumate playmaker who has always appeared to be skating on wet concrete. Outside of Sergei Gonchar, the Caps blue liners were steady, but slow. Sure, they played disciplined and were rarely out of position, but nobody really had the speed to keep up with the Wings with the exception of Gonchar and Phil Housley (and Housley spent most of the playoffs as either a healthy scratch or on the bench, as Caps Coach Ron Wilson felt he was too great a defensive liability). In addition, the Caps top checking line of Hunter, Berube and Simon couldn't keep up with the Wings' fleeter skaters. While Carolina might not exactly be a bunch of flying Frenchman, their team speed is definitely above average, and won't be completely outclassed by Detroit.

2. Team Size: In 1998, the Caps were completely worn out by four players in particular: Kris Draper, Kurt Maltby, Darren McCarty and Tomas Holmstrom. Outside of Simon, the Caps didn't have anybody who could bang with any of these guys, an advantage that was telling as the series wore on. Again, on the blue line, the Caps only real physical presence was Brendan Witt, and then he was still at the point of his career where he would regularly take himself out of position to make a big hit. Meanwhile, Carolina's blueline is nine players deep, with one bruiser after another filling out the lineup.

3. Team Depth: For most of the 1998 season, the Caps had only two-thirds of a scoring line -- Oates and Peter Bondra. In an attempt to knit together two lines that could even seem to constitute a threat, Washington picked up Brian Bellows and Essa Tikkanen at the deadline. While the additions proved a real help down the stretch and during the first three rounds of the playoffs, in essense, they proved to be a real spit and rubber bands solution when deployed against the Red Wings. On defense, with Housley unable to take regular shifts, the rest of the blue line was simply overtaxed. With Carolina, however, this isn't the case. They've had two solid scoring lines all season long (Brind'amour, Battaglia, Cole; and Francis, O'Neill, Gelinas), backed up by a variety of muckers, grinders, and scorers (Sami Kapanen) who provide a depth and balance the Caps never had.

Now, is this enough to win the series? Probably not, but it shouldn't be a cake walk either. Of course, when you look at the Wings, you see the same nucleus that helped them win it all in '97 and '98 (Yzerman, Shannahan, Federov, Lidstrom, Larionov, et. al.) supplemented by their recent Hall of Fame buying spree (Hasek, Chelios, Hull, Robataille). Still, it's important to remember that this is the crew that dropped a pair to Vancouver in the first round, and I think they can be vulnerable.

Pick: Wings in 6. But if Carolina gets a split from the first two games in Detroit, then watch out.

Will They Still Sing "Potvin Sucks" At The Garden. . . If the Rangers hire former Islanders great Bryan Trottier as their new head coach?
Interesting to note of the twenty-two goals Detroit scored against Colorado their top line of Federov, Shanahan and Yzerman only accounted for four or 19% of the tallies, one of which came in overtime. Hull only scored three of the twenty-two.
Who was the Sharks goalie?

April 18, 1994 - At Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, the San Jose Sharks play their first ever playoff game against the Detroit Red Wings. The Sharks, a huge underdog, shock the hockey world by defeating the Wings 5-4 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. Defenseman Vlastamil Kroupa scores the game winning goal. Shawn Cronin scores the first playoff goal in team history.

April 22, 1994 - The Sharks come home to their first playoff game in San Jose. The Red Wings defeat San Jose 3-2 and take a 2-1 series lead.

April 23, 1994 - Sergei Makarov's game winning goal six minutes into the third period caps a Sharks comeback as they defeat the Red Wings 4-3. The Sharks were down 2-0 and 3-1 and came back with three unanswered goals. The playoff series is tied at 2-2.

April 30, 1994 - The Bay Area goes Cup Crazy as the Sharks stun the Red Wings 3-2 to win Game 7 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals and the series 4-3. Jamie Baker scores the game winning goal with 6:35 left in regulation. San Jose becomes the first expansion team since 1975 to win its inaugural playoff series.

Monday, June 03, 2002

Let's be realistic: "The Hurricanes are an admirable team, but they're not going to defeat the Wings. Picking Carolina over Detroit is like buying 2004 season tickets for the Montreal Expos, like picking Apollo Creed in Rocky II, like going to Las Vegas and thinking you will come home a millionaire. It's not going to happen."
Today in history: 1958 - Toronto drafts goaltender Johnny Bower from the New York Rangers. Bower went on to play 12 years with the Maple Leafs and kick righteous ass.