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Monthly Archives: May 2006
My conference final predictions….
But first, round 2:
Edmonton/San Jose (SJ: nope)
Colorado/Anaheim (Anaheim: yup)
Ottawa/Buffalo (Ottawa: nope)
New Jersey/Carolina (Carolina: nope)
1-3. um… yeah. thanks, anaheim, for helping me avoid a total blackout.
So I was 5-3 in the first round, one of the best records I’ve had for a while.
So I’m now 6-6. Still .500, which gets you in the playoffs. Of course, both of my original “final round” picks are gone….
And in the finals:
Edmonton/Anaheim: Edmonton in 7. Anaheim’s rested, maybe too much. But very evenly matched, but I’ll give this one to Edmonton for the experience — Peca and Pronger and company have me convinced.
Buffalo/Carolina: Carolina in 7. Again, it’s youth vs. experience, rest vs. ready, and deep down inside, I’m going to choose Carolina for having Weight and Brind’AMor, and at this time of the season, it’s the gut=check guys that come to the front and carry the play.
Both series are very evenly matched. Any of the four can (and should) deserve a shot at the Cup. Ultimately, this is shaping up to whoever has the biggest hero wins the next series, and Edmonton and Carolina have guys who understand what it takes to be a “conn-smythe” type player; and that’ll ultimately be the difference this round and next. To me, the Cup, or not-to-Cup, lies on the shoulders of Pronger, Peca, Weight and Brind’A'Mor.
and that indicates battles of epic proportions are likely. Should be some really killer, kick-ass hockey.
me? I am now firmly rooting for edmonton: not only do I think they’ve earned my respect, if the team that beats the sharks beats everyone else, it makes the pain a bit more tolerable, no?
Tough game tonight on many levels, and while frustrating to watch the Sharks lose, if you take a step back and watch the game as a hockey fan, I (at least) thought it was a really hard-fought, tough, really fun game by two teams playing “no tomorrow” hockey.
The score notwithstanding, I think the Sharks won the first two periods with some margin; if you look at the shot count and the tom of possession in the offensive zone, you see the ice slanted the Sharks way.
If you look at blocked shots, if you look at goals scored, if you look at Toskala’s save percentage (wince), you’ll see that what edmonton did was defend the defensive zone wonderfully, force turnovers, and stuff them down Toskala’s throat. I’m sure some folks will disagree with me (I heard a few of them in the parking lot leaving tonight), but in my mind, Toskala had NO chance on ANY goal scored on him. Period. None. A few of them were so bad that the Oilers scored them and then looked at each other with a “this is too easy” look, acting almost embarrassed to celebrate a goal like that. So I don’t criticize Toskala at all; I could have played goal tonight and the result would have been mostly the same — because the “normal” shots were generally low percentage, and the goals were tip-ins. there was very little middle ground where Toskala made any real difference, but he made the saves he could.
What I’m seeing right now is two very evenly matched teams — except in one key way.
What I’m seeing is an Oiler team where the veterans better understand what it takes to succeed at this time of the season; they’re forcing turnovers, they’re pressuring players, they’re causing mistakes, and they’re causing players to try too hard at the wrong time, or move too fast, or think too much. The youth of the Sharks has finally caught up to the team; guys like Pronger and Smith and Smyth and Moreau and Peca — they know the war, they understand, at a gut level, how they need to sell-out to win the game — because they’ve been there.
Now, I don’t want to be misunderstood here. Both teams are selling out, pretty much every shift. There isn’t a Shark that isn’t living that gut-check every time they hit the ice. The difference is very subtle, but key: the Oilers already know how deep they have to dig to get what they want, and they have the veteran experience helping them navigate the pressures of “no tomorrow” hockey at this level. The Sharks are, in many cases, learning those lessons as they play.
Now, the Sharks have shown themselves to be a real quick study, whether they can find that next level in time for game 6, I dunno. Most teams, honestly, I wouldn’t give much chance at all at recovering from going from 2-0 to 3-2, but I think the Sharks have about a 30% chance of winning game 6, and if they do, game 7 is a crapshoot.
There’s very little criticism you’ll hear from me about the Sharks right now: this turnaround in the series isn’t about what the Sharks are doing wrong; they’re doing very little wrong. It’s about what Edmonton is doing right, and what Edmonton is forcing the Sharks to do. And it is some pretty damn good hockey.
Reffing tonight was McCreary and Joannette. Paul Devorski was in the wings watching the proceedings, so I’m guessing he gets game 6 (little Devorski was one of the linesman tonight, the other was Pierre Racicot). I’ll admit up front that Joannette wasn’t on my list of refs for the 2nd round, and isn’t really high on my list of refs I want to see, and I think HIS relative inexperience tonight impacted the game somewhat. The Oilers were a grumpy bunch (well, gee, what a surprise), and I felt they were allowed too much physical work around the slot early, which set a tone and also allowed tempers to build, and eventually start leaking out around the seams. There were two situations (both when Joannette was the deep ref) that I felt were callable actions in the slot that were allowed to go on; once they were defined as “acceptable play”, the Oilers started taking greater liberties, while the Sharks got grumpy in return and started pushing back — and that’s when the post-whistle scrums started. Roloson took the brunt of the sideshow on more than one occasion, and things just shifted from solid physical play to, well, the kind of hockey I hate, but which Tom Benjamin keeps professing he loves; stickwork, face washing, post-whistle rugby matches, and all of those things that happen when referees let tempers get out of hand by not calling appropriate penalties.
Of course, the next phase of those kinds of games also happened, later in the third: the refs start calling TOO many penalties, in an attempt to keep the game from spinning completely out of control and moving from rugby to “west side story”. Since in the third period the Sharks were struggling to hang on and get back in it, most of those penalties went against them. That, of course, just escalated tempers on the Sharks side further; the 5-3 where both Bernier and Michalek went at the same time was the end result of that, and successfully took the heart out of San Jose (as well as any chance of a last minute rally); the penalties were deserved — but a better reffed game would have prevented them by managing tempers better in the first and second period, when they were capable of being managed.
And I’m not saying that Joannette did a bad job of reffing; I think both teams were equally pissed off, and pissed off at both refs at the end of the game; to me, that’s the sign of a fairly called game. But I do think Joanette’s inexperience impacted the game the same was Matt Carle’s did, or Josh Gorge’s: he’s still figuring out what it takes to ref at this time of the year, and it created a rougher game than it needed to be.
(and this is where hockey “pundits” really piss me off, the old “I don’t want a referee to decide the game” crap. A referee ALWAYS decides the game — on every play where they make a decision whether to call a penalty or not, how they choose impacts the game; by NOT calling a penalty, or by calling it, they are choosing to side with one team or the other for that play; when referees choose to NOT call a penalty, they are siding with the player initiating an action; therefore, they’re encouraging that action to be taken, and repeated.
So the reality is, the referee is the one who chooses which player can decide a game; when referrees put the whistle away, they aren’t “letting the players decide” they are biasing the game towards physical play instead of skill play. And who are you paying to see play, anyway? Thornton and Pronger? or Laraque and Parker?
The new reffing setup isn’t perfect: anything based on subjective calls by human beings will make mistakes (except postings in this blog, of course), but the reason I support it is that the league has finally gotten serious about biasing action back towards the talent players on a team, instead of the grinders and holders and interference-mongers of the world. It is their JOB to “be the mommy” and not let bullies bully. Which fans love, as long as it’s the other team’s bully being sent to the box…. Me, I love watching the skill players skate; if the Sharks lose, I can’t wait to see pronger and selanne battle; compare that to, oh, the year the Panthers ran for the cup; you tell me who’s more fun to watch…. Think about that the next time you gripe at the ref…)
Sharks have a couple of days before the next “no tomorrow” day. It’ll be interesting to see how they regroup, what changes are made to take on the Oilers at home. Edmonton just has to keep bringing it on; they’ve won three straight facing their “no tomorrow” day, and are showing some serious gut-check ability the Sharks still need to learn. The only question left is simple: how fast can the Sharks kids grow up?
We’ll know Wednesday.
Roloson deflected Ek’s shot, the puck went way up in the air and nobody saw it. Just a flukey thing. What can you do?” said Sharks coach Ron Wilson. “It all came together like, well, a perfect storm. We had them penned in their end for two minutes on the power play, firing shots left and right, then one of our shots gets deflected, we can’t find the puck and they get a bounce.”
When Jason Smith (on a nifty deke) and Ales Hemsky (after a great feed from Ryan Smyth) beat Toskala early in the third he was gone for Evgeni Nabokov. It was only the third time in his NHL career, Toskala has given up five goals in a game.
If Toskala’s psyche is a little bruised, he wasn’t showing it after the Oilers made him look mortal for the first time in the series. He didn’t have much to say, but he didn’t look broken up. Wilson got him out of there after 31 shots, not so much because he was shell-shocked, as to get his former No. 1 Nabokov into the game.
“Just a rest for Toskala and an opportunity to get Nabby some work,” said Wilson, who’ll let the Finn jump right back on the horse Sunday night.
“I thought Peca’s goal (to make it 3-2) actually got us back on our heels, shooting from on the goal-line,” said Wilson, who wrote off the Samsonov goal as just a terrible break. “We were in control of the game, up 3-1 and Roloson made an incredible save on a 2-on-0 (Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo) when we were short-handed, then a couple of bounces went against us,” said Wilson. “The crowd got into it and they finished us off.”
I’m not sure I’m as sanguine about the loss as Wilson is — while the Sharks have been in control early, it’s been a closely fought battle with both teams playing well. A couple of bounces turned Edmonton’s way, and they buried us; it shows how close this series really is, that it could be 3-1 either way.
It’s nice that the team isn’t being too worried about the loss to the press, but let’s hope that some of that is showmanship, not simply overconfidence; because that’s what the Oilers would love to take advantage of…
I think Chopper speaks for all Oil fans when he says:It would be more enjoyable if we were up in the series,” said Moreau. “But I love this hockey – it’s great, it’s fast, it’s physical. It’s a great product. It’s two teams that are competing very hard, two teams that skate well.True dat.I have no grand observations other than I think that the winner of this game will win the series.
I think that might be correct.
Gotta hand it to Edmonton tonight. They found the crack in San Jose’s armor and ripped it wide open. San Jose’s been humming along, feeling invulnerable and playing like it. No more.
Now, we get to see whether San Jose can deal with that. It’s no longer an easy decision to pick the Sharks in this series (if it ever was. I picked them in six; it’s easier to pick them in six than living through them playing this series for six games….). On the other hand, Edmonton is going to have to win in San Jose; if both sides keep winning home games, the Sharks move on in 7.
But edmonton had to find a way to break through. they did. Now, it’s clearly the Sharks on the defensive, having to find a way to push back and take momentum back. Game five has to be a great game for the Sharks, or they’re in trouble.
(will they? I think so; that was their first truly stinker game of the playoffs, if you ask me — but I’ll give full credit to Edmonton for forcing San jose into stinking… San jose didn’t play flat, san jose was flattened.) I can’t even say “the sharks looked tired” as an excuse; they didn’t. They simply got seriously outplayed.
It’s now a best of three, and anyone’s guess. Game 5 MAY tell the story; especially if Edmonton wins it. But this puppy is going at least six, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see San Jose win at home, and Edmonton follow, and it all come down to Game 7 and who can dig deeper. If that happens — then Anaheim’s the real winner….
Makes me feel that whatever happens, the REAL final round with the east will be an anti-climax. We’re seeing the real final rounds now; the worry may well be whoever comes out of the West is too tired and beaten up to beat the East, not that the East is better.
You know what else really pisses me off about the Sharks? Their fans. Oh sure, they can yell and scream in the rink, but where are they now?
I’ve been quieter than normal because I’m travelling. Sunday (round 2 game 1) was my mom and dad’s 50th wedding anniversary, and they threw themselves a big party, renting out a restaurant and inviting lots of folks. As dutiful son, not only did I go, I wore a coat and tie, and I didn’t even ask the bar to sneak the sharks game on.
I’ve been following where I can thanks to the XM radio in the car, but between being tied up with things (the party, upgrading mom’s computer to Tiger and a new printer/scanner, surprising dad with his own iBook now that he’s decided to get online, and doing parental tech support.
First two playoff games I’ve missed since, um, 1995, when I was in europe training Apple people on this new “internet” thing. Fortunately, the hotel I’m in now has OLN, so life is a LOT better, but I’ll be happy to be home (tomorrow).
I know some folks can be experts about anything — but I prefer to actually watch what I talk about, or at least listen to it… (I did get most of OT on the Sharks/Oiler game last night, at least….)
We’ll be back to normal by game 5. And once the Sharks put the Oilers away (which SHOULD still happen, just not easy), perhaps we’ll even start believing the Sharks are for real…. right now, it’s still a bit cinderella-ish, Joe thornton notwithstanding…
the three games last night are an interesting view into playoff hockey. New Jersey and Ottawa are looking at tee times, and Edmonton isn’t.
Coaches for the Devils and the Sens should simply show the first period of last night’s Oiler’s game to their teams and say “this. This is how you play when the end of the season is staring at you”.
but the Oilers have their own problem: they hung it all out. the sold out. they did everything they possibly could, and finally won a period against the sharks (in enthusiastic style and by a wide margin). Then they had to go back into their locker room and say to themselves “now, we only need to do that two more periods tonight, and for three more games after that”.
And I think that reality is why they came out a little flat in the 2nd, and the Sharks scored twice. The reality is, it looks like for Edmonton to win, they have to play with that “no tomorrow”, almost-suicidal attitude; and do it not for a period, but for the rest of the series.
To give them credit — they found that next gear, nobody else this round has, or really came close. Will they be able to keep it up? Will that “12″ on their amplifier travel with them to San Jose?
Dunno. But that period was a textbook case of playing desperate; and it took well into overtime, but Edmonton finally got the break it needed, and the win. They earned it the hard way, too, and deserved it. I respected them going into the series; I respect them more this morning. they’re not going to make it easy.
But — can they do it three more games? We’ll see; to be honest, that’s why coaches focus on the next game, and the next period. Lose those, it no longer maters. Let the players see too far into the future, and they see how steep the path is. Only talk about the next climb, let them know they can do it.
On the Sharks side? All they need to do is keep doing what they’ve been doing; if they have a ’12′ on their amplifier, even better, but they can do what they did last night — avoid the worst of the Oiler physical play, be patient, take their shots; after all, they also were one bounce away from making that series 3-0 last night, despite everything Edmonton threw at them. Edmonton is still the team under pressure here.
(and — congrats to the Oiler fans. that’s some noise. something the Sharks fans should take as a challenge….)
My Round 2 predictions….
But first, a look back at Round 1. I picked:
Detroit/Edmonton: Detroit in 5
Dallas/Colorado: Dallas in 6
Calgary/Anaheim: Calgary in 6
San Jose/Nashville: San Jose in 6.
(that makes me, um, 1-3 in the west, where I know the teams better. Great work, chuq)
Ottawa/Tampa Bay: Ottawa in 4
Carolina/Montreal: Carolina in 5
New Jersey/Rangers: New Jersey in a fight.
Buffalo/Philly: Buffalo in 6.
(where I magically went 4-0)
So I’m 5-3 in the first round, one of the best records I’ve had for a while.
Edmonton/San Jose: San Jose in 6. I just think San Jose is rolling, better offense, better goaltending. Pronger worries me, as always. he can carry a team, and will.
Colorado/Anaheim: Anaheim in 6. I just don’t think Colorado is stronger.
Ottawa/Buffalo: Ottawa in 7. Series to watch this round in the east. gonna be fun.
New Jersey/Caroling: New Jersey in 6. the better team, with Brodeur.
Teal Sunglasses: Update on me…:
Quick update on my and my current argument with my body…
The fever is gone and the lungs are finally clear, so it looks like we nailed the pneumonia.
I got mail tonight from a friend, looking at the sudden rush of blog postings, and he said “you’re feeling better!”
Yes, finally. Although the radiologist who analyzed the xrays formally declared it “not pneumonia”, everything else disagrees with him. It took another couple of weeks, but it’s starting to come back together. My remaining problem is a lack of stamina; it just sucked out all of my reserves, so I’m doing things like falling asleep in meetings, suddenly realizing I need a nap, or simply hitting a point where I have to stop for a while a rest. It’s getting better, though, but it means I have to watch what I do that I don’t go overboard and risk a setback. It sucks, but ohwell.
I’m starting to do some walking to rebuild the stamina and get back on fighting the weight (along the way, I made it back to 370. gah).
I’m going to be taking some vacation soon (my christmas vacation, sort of) — but the first half of the week involves Orange County for my mom and dad’s 50th wedding anniversary party and a few days of tech support on the computers. I’m hoping to get a day down at San Diego Zoo, and then some time up in Yosemite (the falls look awesome now) to do some unwinding. I’m going to try to schedule another week soon, just to take a break without family obligations to wander around the bay area (I really want to spend some time up at Pt. Reyes, and down in Pt. Lobos and Uvas Canyon before the summer heat hits too hard core.
I’m a little worried about Yosemite right now, given the altitude, but if there’s a place I’d want to spend a couple of days sitting and too tired to walk without complaining, that’s probably it…