Monday, April 19, 2010

All Things Hockey, Playoff Edition Part II

TFLN- Playoff Edition

I have never read Texts From Last Night, but I am familiar with the idea. I also talk almost exclusively about hockey with friends and family during the NHL playoffs. I’m not going to be able to put together what happened on 4/18 by myself, so hopefully this will help bring me to an actual recap.

My Dad:

“Marleau looks hurt.”

I actually buy this one. Marleau hasn’t been going to the net like he usually does, he hasn’t been physical at all and he just doesn’t have the pop that his game usually does. I didn’t see it myself, but once he said it, I think that this is plausible. He looked great against Phoenix on the last night of the season, and I didn’t see anything that shook him up in games one or two, but something definitely looked off in game 3.

“Watch the tape. The bad play in the sequence at the end of the game last night was not by Boyle or Nabokov. It was by Murray. Why did he reverse the puck? Kind of a lazy play. He had Thornton on the other side all alone ready to break it out, with no pressure on that side from the Avs.”

Maybe. I mean it isn’t wrong, for sure. The thing is, I just can’t bring myself to look for blame on that play. I really just think that it was a freaky play, one that can’t be put on anything but bad luck. Obviously there was a level of laziness that can be assigned to a number of players, but at the end of the day it was just the sort of thing that only seems to happen to the Sharks. I made plenty of dour jokes about God hating the Sharks and luck, neither of which are realistic, so I guess I will just blame quantum mechanics, particle physics, the Heisenberg Uncertainty principle and chaos theory for putting that puck in the net.

High School Roommate, Andrew:

“Heatley is hurt we are going to get swept by the Aves.”

Easy buddy, don’t jump. Besides, we already won game two but all but eliminated (read: eliminated) a sweep.

“Anderson is playing like Hiller did last year for the Ducks.”

Eerily so. I give him credit, but it is something that I had thought many a time since the beginning of the series.

Dave Damashek:

“The San Jose Sharks have to have taken over for the Boston Red Sox as the hardest team in sports to root for these days.”

First of all, I don’t actually know Damashek, he said this on Bill Simmons’s podcast. But it is a fair point. The Sox pre-2004 (between like 1995 and then) kept coming up just short. Obviously, the Sox had a much longer run of coming up short that made it so frustrated. The thing is, the Sox rarely had the best team from 1918-2003, and the fact is the Sharks have had what could be the elite squad in the NHL the last few years, and yet they have fallen short making it all the more frustrating. And by the way, my first reaction Sunday night was to compare the Sharks loss to the 2003 Aaron Boone game. The certainty that we had control in overtime followed by a freaky, almost implausible sudden death defeat (in 2003 because Boone had been an automatic out for 7 games) left the exact same empty, helpless, frustrated and pissed off feeling with me when the game was over.

Fraternity Brother, Lou:

“Heatley was benched.”

An interestingtheory, but I don’t buy it. Heatley was the best Shark in game one. You can’t put your best corer on the bench like that. I agree that it looks suspicious, since Heatley was fine at the end of game 2 (he played on the powerplay before Seto scored and nothing appeared to shake him up), and now appears to be headed back, but I just don’t see the Sharks sitting him down at this point.

High School Teammate, Mike:

100% understandable. at least youve had the past few yrs to grow accustomed to being very very frustrated.... well see how things go this yr (major sic’s)”

Believe me, each successive year makes the frustration 100x worse. It isn’t something you get used to. The good thing is that the Sharks have outplayed the Aves badly for 2 games now, and I still would pick them if I could somehow be objective. That is as positive a note as I am going to get too, so let’s take a look at the rest of the NHL which was as good as the Sharks were bad the past few days.

Award Watch

The NHL Awards, with the exception of the Conn Smythe, are regular season awards. That being the case, we may as well wrap up Awards Watch for the season, by making official picks for the big NHL trophies.

(For the MVP, I’m going to wait, and do it on its own)


I had a long debate with my friend Austin (featured above) about the Calder race late Tuesday night. Austin, an Avalanche fan, was adamant that Matt Duchene has been the best rookie in the National Hockey League. I was adamant that he was wrong.

My choice remains unchanged, which is to say that as much as I resent his donning of Canadian colours (as opposed to American colors) in international competition, Tyler Myers is the clear cut rookie of the year. With due respect to Austin and to Matt Duchene (who has had a great rookie campaign by any measure to be sure), the key part of that sentence is ‘clear cut,’ which is to say that it isn’t even close.

My argument was that Myers has been the number one defenseman, leading the team in ice, for the number three seed in the West. This alone is a great ROY resume, but it does go deeper than that. Myers is a special player, who brings Chara-esque size and defensive zone ability to a Norris Trophy type of skill set. Watching the Sabers from any sort of analytical disposition, Myers sticks out as a special player.

If you want to compare him directly to Duchene, that comes out for Myers too. Duchene is indeed a good player with a chance to be a star in the NHL. Myers, on the other hand has a chance to be the best player at his position. Duchene has a really nice skill set, but chances are he is just another 70-85 point winger, and while they are hardly a dime a dozen, there are a few in every class.

The statistics favor the Buffalo defenseman as well. Consider the following two categories: first, points. Duchene has 55 to lead all rookies, but Myers is just 7 behind, and from the point. Since Myers is a defenseman, which gives him the edge in scoring (Myers is 11th amongst defenseman, Duchene doesn’t crack the top 50, coming in at 66th among forwards. The second number of importance is 9. That is the number of front page statistics (on that Tyler Myers ranks in the top 10 in rookies for. Not among defenseman, among all rookies. He leads rookies in games played (82), time on ice (amongst players with more than 20 games), shifts per game (same) and assists. He also ranks top 10 in points, goals, power play goals, shooting percentage and is second in plus/minus.

All of that pales in to comparison, though, to the most compelling and convincing reason that Tyler Myers deserves the Calder Trophy, which I stumbled upon the next morning. Mark Recchi was on the NHL Live radio show. EJ Hradek asked him about the key matchup in the upcoming series that Recchi was looking for against Buffalo.

Without hesitation, Recchi answered “We have to find a way to contain Myers.”

He didn’t say, “Myers is a good player.” He didn’t say, “Myers is a tough guy to go up against.” He didn’t even say, “It will be tough to match up with Myers.” He used the word contain. Recchi is in the same division as Myers, so he played him 6 times this season. He has also seen his fair share of hockey, having played in the NHL for almost 1600 games. That is a lot. I don’t think I have done 1600 of anything, Recchi has played an NHL game 1571 times. He knows what he is talking about. Myers was the first thing he mentioned. Containing a D man. That’s how good this kid is, even if he is a G-D Benedict Arnold.

The Final Ballot- 1.Tyler Myers, 2. Matt Duchene, 3. Jonathan Tavares, 4. Jimmy Howard, 5. James VanRiemsdyk


The case for Dave Tippett is pretty simple. Last year, the Coyotes were a bad team, with an inexperienced coach, and they missed the playoffs by 12 points, finishing in 13th place.

This year, they brought back essentially the same bad roster. There were two main differences. First, the team was marred in controversy regarding potential ownership changes and relocation. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this wasn’t responsible for the turn around.

The other difference was behind the bench. No one wants to come right out and blame the great one, but he was learning on the job, and it was a difficult situation. This year, they hired Tippett through the chaos at the beginning of the year. If Gretzky wasn’t at fault, he was at least unable to turn the situation around. Tippet was.

I have said it before, there really isn’t a star on the roster (with due respect to Shane Doan or Wotjek Wolski). Their defensemen are good, but not great. Bryzgalov is having an unbelievable season, but he has been there for a couple of years, and it hasn’t made the difference. Watching Phoenix, it is clear that they win as a well coached team that comes to play every night. That is been the difference, and that is why Tippett is the only one who warrants talking about for the Adams Trophy.

The Final Ballot- 1. Dave Tippett, 2. Cory Clouston, 3. Joe Sacco, 4. Lindy Ruff, 5. Todd McLellan


The Selke trophy, given to the best defensive player in the NHL, is probably the most visceral of the awards given each June. It is nearly impossible to narrow down the award on numbers alone.

Some stats help, but nothing narrows it down. Plus minus is a good indication, but Alex Oveckkin led the league, and no one in their right mind would say he was the best defensive player. Takeaways have given Pavel Datsyuk the award couple of times (and rightfully so), but Alexander Ovechkin and Maxim Afinogenov are in the top 11 in that category. Besides, so much more goes into defense than can be calculated.

That isn’t to say that stats, can’t be used, in fact they should. The first category, though, in the vetting process should be the eyeball test. Does the guy get beat on the rush? Does he get back in the zone every time? Is he physical? Plenty of guys do those things, and if they do, then you move to stats to determine the favorite.

For me, Ryan Kessler is the guy. Does he pass the visceral test? Yeah. So let’s go to the stats. Datsyuk is way ahead of Kessler in takeaways, but Kessler has the two spot. The thing is, Datsyuk is nowhere near the top of the league in blocked shots, and Kessler is in seventh. He isn’t at the top of the league in hits, but that is because most hits forwards throw are on the other end of the ice. Anyone who watches the Canucks knows that Kessler is a physical guy in his own zone.

Ryan Kessler has been underrated since he came into the league, but that should change this year, since Kessler should win the Selke.

1. Ryan Kessler, 2. Pavel Datsyuk, 3. Mike Fisher, 4. Sidney Crosby


I really don’t want to say that it is Ryan Miller, and that if you followed hockey this year, you don’t need an explanation, and leave it at that. But it is Ryan Miller, and if you followed hockey this year, you already know that. Bryzgalov has put together a great campeign and warrents mention (Brodeur on the other hand

Back in the USSR

The KHL playoffs are streaming this morning on, the same network that can’t get the NHL. Anyways, I couldn’t be more excited. What better way to get my mind off of the tragedy of the Sharks loss last night than with the league that is single handedly trying to rejuvenate the Soviet empire? I have no idea what to write about it, other than “it is freaking awesome!” so I’m just going to write down everything that comes into my head and hope it works.

First of all, the game is in Russian on the webcast, rather than with translations. This sounds like a bad thing, but it actually is significantly enhancing the experience. I haven’t been this excited to not be able to understand something since I tried to watch “Lost” my junior year.

I looked up the rosters on the official English Language website of the KHL, Wikipedia. Unfortunately, there really weren’t any players that I recognized. This would b e a good time to mention that the teams are HC MVD (I thought that was a television abbreviation along the lines of LAK or NYR, but it turns out that is the team name), and AK Bars. I don’t know anything, including where they are from, about these teams, other than that Ilya Kovalchuk played for the Bars before he came to America. Anyways, as far as the rosters, it was a little bit disappointing. Alexi Morozov (aka one of the biggest busts in NHL history) plays for the Bars, as does Danis Zaripov, who played for the Russian Olympic team, but that is it, and there isn’t anyone of note on HC MVD. So no Federov, Jagr, Yashin or Radulov. Oh well.

For some reason, listening to what song they are playing between play is supremely entertaining. It is mostly a stream of techno so far. Disappointingly, though, it isn’t Russian Techno, but American pop techno. So far, we have heard “Call on Me” by Eric Prydz, a Cascada song (can’t remember which one) and “Sandstorm” by Darude. Come on, Russia! You are the bastion of techno! Don’t let the imperial capitalist pigs of the West drag down your proud national spirit, expressed in the form of synthesizers and pounding artificial beats!

It has been 20 long years since Mr. Gorbachev tore down that wall, the Soviet Union was disbanded, and the Cold War was thought to be over. Today, though, in 2010, and only now, am I willing to declare the Cold War officially, 100% over. There are two reasons for this. First of all, the Soviets er, uh, Russians and the Americans are leading the charge towards a nuclear disarmament (BUT OBAMA SUCKS BECAUSE WE STILL PAY TAXES! WHAT HAS HE DONE? REPEAL HEALTH CARE! GO TEA PARTY! the way, I can’t print my new name for the Tea Party movement, since there is a 99.999% chance you would be offended by the language, just know it was funny. I promise).

I discovered the second, and frankly more important reason while watching the introduction to the KHL game. The music playing in AK (still haven’t looked up where they play) was none other than Europe’s “The Final Countdown.” That’s right, one of the themes from Rocky 4. None other than documentary that logged the US defeating Russia in the cold war via boxing match. And now it is played in Russian hockey arenas. The war is over.

There audio track of the game now has a woman conducting an interview in the background of the play by play (like there are 2 audio tracks being played simultaneously). I am so confused. Is it a production error? Maybe. Is it intentional? I don’t know. I can’t imagine why you would need 2 commentaries at the same time, but that is probably because my feeble American brain has been corrupted by the vices of capitalism and so called freedom of democracy, in which the bourgeois play the role of invisible dictator, and cannot comprehend the complexities of the glorious Russian system.

Goal! AK Bars are on the board making it 1-1! Unfortunately, nothing goofy happened and it basically looked like a goal being scored in the NHL. I couldn’t be more disappointed.

This, unfortunately, is AHL level hockey. Of course, I knew that before this game based on the fact that Radulov is the best player in the league by quite a bit, Robert Esche is the best goalie, and, well, because I watched Russia’s Olympic team, but it is clear watching it that this has a long way to go if it thinks it is going to challenge the NHL.

I think that the coach for AK is the Russian National team coach. I have no idea, though, since every Russian hockey coach is required to have the same bad haircut, be a little bit overweight, and just basically look exactly the same.

I looked it up, he isn’t. I have never been happier to be wrong, considering it speaks to the above theory.

5 Ideas for Fake “What if X Didn’t…” NHL Commercials

I actually like the commercials that are running all over the games right now, with the classic moments being thrown into reverse, followed by the ‘what if question.’ They are a more than adequate version of the NBA’s “Where Amazing Happens’ ads. Fortunately, like the “Where Amazing Happens’ campaign, even though they are solid ads they are almost too easy to mock, so let’s take a shot.

1.What if Raffi Torres wasn't a douchebag? A clip of a ref with his arms at his side, then backing up to Milan Michalek lying motionless on the ice, then floating up until his head goes flying into Torres’s elbow, then about 4 seconds (unless it is in slow motion, then it will be like 10), until you get back to the point where Michalek was actually touching the puck. Yeah I’m still bitter.

2. What if David Stern Didn’t Plant Gary Betteman as the NHL commissioner? An empty rink, with a ‘2005 NHL Playoffs’ banner visible.

3. What if the NHL Players’ Union Had Their S*** together? Same thing. Equal time right? And yeah, I’m still bitter.

4. What if Jaques Lemaire didn’t almost kill hockey? A 45 minute clip of teams trying and failing to enter the zone, followed by Brodeur’s inflated numbers coming across the screen.

5. What if God Didn’t Hate the Sharks? I liked this one so much, I actually made it.

Shorter Hockey Thoughts From The First Few Night Of Action

- Unfortunately, as I have mentioned before, Santa Clara’s cable system doesn’t get Versus. I have started a small movement to try to get the administration to add it to the lineup. If you are interested in helping (it would be much appreciated), go to the facebook page at!/group.php?gid=112407142124340&ref=ts.

- On that note, thanks to the literally a few people who emailed media services to try to get Versus at SCU.

- Rather than wrapping up everything that I have to say about round one thus far in a column that would run around 4500 words in addition to all of this stuff, let’s go with a more digestible ‘shorter hockey thoughts’ version of a recap.

- Randy and Drew (Sharks announcers) said that there is going to be an emphasis on faceoff violations in the playoffs. My question is this: WHY THE HELL WOULD THERE BE AN EMPHASIS ON FACEOFF VIOLATIONS? WHY? “Guys we need to slow down stoppages, make the games drag out, and enforce petty violations without making the game more competitive, more entertaining, or in any way better! Stat!”

- What the hell was going on with the doors at Mellon Arena Friday night? Multiple times, hits sent guys flying through the boards, including Sutton, after he had already hit Leopold a few feet away. Good thing this is it for the Igloo.

- Joe Pavelski saved the Sharks season. I am convinced of it. If Pavs doesn’t put ‘er home with 30 seconds left in game 2 Friday night, the Sharks were done. Now that he did? I would bet just about anything on them in this series. The Avalanche have thrown everything that they have in games 1 and 2 and the Sharks have, for the most part, held it off, with only Craig Anderson keeping it close.

- Absolutely tremendous 100% clean hit by Andy Sutton on Jordan Leopold Friday night. Leopold had his head down, and Sutton came across and caught him perfectly. Elbow was in, he led with his shoulder, and he didn’t leave his feet. Sure, he caught Leopold high, but that was a textbook example of the puck carrier not protecting himself. I don’t think that there was anything wrong with it. More important, though, was the elite club that Sutton joined after the game, when he added “are you an expert,” to “practice,” and “playoffs?” in the ridiculous post-game quote lexicon.

- I missed the best storyline in the Buffalo-Boston series, one that hasn’t been built up as much as it should be. Really, we have the present going up against the future, with Zdeno Chara and Tyler Myers. They are the only two players in the NHL that physically, are unlike anyone else. Obviously, there isn’t much direct competition between defensemen on opposing teams, but the chance to watch the Slovakian giant, and the youngster from Houston, Texas, which I believe is in British Columbia, for 60 minutes in the same rink is exciting.

- Ovechkin getting zero shots in the Caps opener is shocking. Watching him, and taking into account the amount that he is on the ice, it is absolutely unbelievable that he could not get a shot. He can create a play that leads to one every time he touches the puck. Thursday, night was just a genuine no-show. The Caps can’t win the series, let alone the cup, if they get that Ovie for the next few games.

- Going back to Chara, everyone knows about the huge size, unmatched strength, booming shot, and uncanny shutdown ability, but the things that make Chara so incredible are the fact that he is an unbelievably agile skater for his size, and he has a great knack for jumping up in the zone.

- As of the second period of the Habs-Caps game, my main thought is “DUN-DUN-DUN, DUN-DUN-DUN-DUN, DUN-DUN-DUN, WOAH-OH-OH-OH-OH!” Also, I can’t believe that a 1 on 2 shot from the faceoff dot was just described as ‘Ovechkin’s best chance of the series.’

- Finally, the Canadians are getting the Mike Cammalleri that they thought they were getting when they signed him from Calgary, rather than the one that the Flames signed from Los Angeles.

- Cisco doesn’t seem to understand how ‘time zones’ work.’ ( Or, generally, advertising. Or school. Then again, I haven’t been in elementary school for a few years. Do semi-unknown Canadian actresses routinely show up prior to field trips these days? (and if you are wondering what that has to do with hockey, I have seen that commercial approximately 1800 times in the past few days)

- Starting in 2012, take “John Carlson/Tyler Myers” over “The Field” for the next 12 Norris Trophies. Pencil that in. The only doubt I have is whether or not that should start next year.

- If you want to rank the best players in the NHL in tiers, tier one is Crosby and Ovechkin. Nicklas Backstrom is in tier 2. If he wasn’t in Ovie’s shadow, he would be getting credit for carrying a franchise.

- Who told Versus it would be a good idea to model every original show that they do after ‘Mohr Sports?’

- Cisco gets the worst ad award, obviously, but the best I have seen so far has to be the Wayne Gretzky LG commercial.

- My favorite type of music is Jim Houghson’s voice. My favorite song is “A Howitzer.”

- I love every single series going 1-1. Obviously, with the exception of the Sharks, you want to see the most hockey, and the wildest, closest matchups. This year has certainly delivered that through the first weekend with OT’s, and every team taking a sweep off of the table already.

- This is where I would write something about how devastating the Sharks game 3 loss was, or how upset I was, or even how well they played, that is if the loss hadn’t rendered me unable to think rationally, or even coherently at this point.

What I Like About: Alexander Ovechkin

There are so many things to love about Ovechkin if you are a hockey fan. Dude brings it every night. He is electrifying to watch. You never know what he is going to do next, but most of the time it will be something that brings you to the edge of your seat if not to your feet.

I have written about plenty of those things before, but there are two intangibles that get overlooked often times because of Ovechkin’s immense skill. Those things are an undying love of playing hockey, which is evident when you watch #8, and a passion for winning that can only be described as ‘Jordan-esque.’

To me, there is one situation that brings this characteristic to light consistently (although just watching him play does as well). Everyone knows about Ovie’s enthusiastic goal celebrations. Cherry called him out for jumping into the boards. He has his signature one knee sweep of the ice. He made headlines for his charade when he scored his 50th goal last season. What gets overlooked though, is that Ovechkin often gets equally, if not more, fired up, when his teammate scores.

No one celebrates harder when he is on the ice for a goal. Either this guy really cares about getting plusses (possible, he lead the league in them this year), or he gets genuinely fired up for his teammates. You might not like his aggressiveness, or even the vigor with which he celebrates his own goals, but it is hard not to like how much he appreciates his teammates’ successes.

Homer Note of the Week

(Warning: I am writing after the Sharks’ loss in game 3. I am still mad. This could be…less than diplomatic.)

Ok, so I am bitter. Maybe I am just bitter. But really, Colorado? Listen to the radio broadcast, and the call of the last goal. Dude reacted like he had just seen the prettiest goal in the history of hockey to win the Stanley Cup.

The fact is this: The Sharks beat the crap out of the Avalanche for 180 minutes. Two freaky goals (fluky doesn’t cover it) have kept the Avalanche in this series. We are a better team, and anyone in their right mind would take the Sharks with even odds to come back and win.

Seriously, you have created about 3 legit scoring chances in the series. You 5 marshmallows in game 2 to stay in it, nad your goalie had the best day of his G-D life to get game 3 in what can only be described as grand larceny. To all you Avalanche fans, running your mouths, talk to me when you win a single race. Sure, you are up 2-1, but the shots have been 51-17, 52-22 and 129-69. Craig Anderson isn’t Vladislav Tretiak. He is gonna crack.

2 gifts from God, who clearly hates the Sharks for some reason, have kept you in this series, but anyone in their right mind knows that the Sharks are better, and there is no way I would trade our team for their situation.

So keep your shirts on.

(Sorry, needed to get that out.)

Goal of the Weeks

The Sedins combined skill, savvy, passing, flash and ESP to score this one. It is an absolutely incredible play. Probably the goal of the year for my money.

Hit of the Weeks

I had a bit of trepidation, posting this video, since you hate to see someone get knocked out the way Leopold did, but this was just an absolute hammer dropped by Sutton, and at the same time an effective defensive play, the two things you look for with physical play. I would know, I’m an expert.

Save of the Weeks

This week’s best save was made by…Patrice Bergeron? The play that Crosby made Friday night may actually have been even better, but between the hustle showed by Bergeron, and the fact that if he doesn’t do that they may very well have missed the playoffs, Bergeron gets the edge over the other half of the duo that dominated the 2004 World Juniors.

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