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Monthly Archives: April 2008
Having this discussion with a buddy, and a bit more perspective on this:
If Pavelski doesn’t blow a tire in game 2, is this an entirely different series? If the called-back goal last night early wasn’t blown dead? we’re down 0-3, and it could easily be 3-0 if four or five pieces of “bad karma” turn the other way, or a couple of posts go in.
For all that it looks that the Sharks are done, the entire series turns on maybe four or five plays that didn’t go the Sharks way. A post here, a fast whistle, a lost edge. One or two of those go the other direction, this series is tied, or even Sharks up.
It’s not “sharks bad” here, but “dallas good”. There are two teams on the ice, and right now, Dallas is getting the breaks AND taking advantage of them. Good to them. And the Sharks aren’t playing badly, they’re being beaten by Dallas, currently playing better.
It’s kinda hard for me to get into the witchhunt that’s going to happen (starting with the canadian media that’s been hunting Ron Wilson and Patty Marleau all year beating the drums) when the real difference between the Sharks going to the final and the Sharks going to the tee seems to be a couple of posts, a fast whistle, a couple of penalty calls that maybe don’t go our way and Pavelski going down and giving the Stars a gift in game 2.
I know it’s not a popular opinion with some of the other fans, but I’m just not that frustrated, but I’ve always been tagged a suck up apologist… But then to me, there’s no dishonor in being beaten by a better team.
Remember, every year 29 teams suck, because they didn’t win the cup. Only one does. And this team is damn close to being a top 4 team, and is a top 8 team, even when not necessarily playing its best. The Sharks basically look really tired, Thornton and Grier and Roenick look gassed to me. And what was one of the worries coming out of the Calgary series? That the Flames took enough out of the Sharks that they couldn’t get past the next round. Guess what? It happened.
And in case you haven’t heard, the word is that Sean Avery went into cardiac arrest and stopped breathing after the game last night, and was rushed to the hospital where they found a lacerated spleen.
He’ll be okay, but think about this — if he’d bled out a little slower and gotten to his hotel room before passing out, he’d be dead this morning, and it’d be a much different discussion today. And that puts a different perspective on the importance of this “game”, or it should.
Update 1: new information is coming out that the cardiac arrest aspect was sensationalized reporting; Avery reportedly suffered the injury in the first period, played through the game, and was taken to the hospital after by the team doctor, where he walked in. Imagine if a blogger reported things that badly? But since this was the pro press, well, that’s different.
In any event, Avery’s going to be fine, but the underlying point is still valid: he’s lucky this was caught early, that’s a serious, potentially deadly injury, and to me, it puts the importance of the games in a different perspective, reminding me (again) just how seriously we ought to be taking this stuff sometimes.
First round done, and frankly, that was some great hockey. Only one four-game series, showing Ottawa to be the only team that really shouldn’t have been in the playoffs (and my sympathies to my sens-fan friends, it was sad seeing the entire franchise melt down this season).
six of eight series go six or seven games, and there’s been a lot of good, quality hockey. It’s so good people looking for things to complain about seem to be falling back on the reffing — and while the reffing isn’t perfect by any means, if that’s the worst you can find to complain about in the game, well, shut up and enjoy the ride.. (not that you will)
Game 7 in San Jose was a classic. The Sharks came out and just seemed ready — something they don’t always do. Calgary tried, but the Sharks simply didn’t let them get much traction. Even when the Flames went up 2-1, it was my feeling that the Sharks attitude was “no big deal, we’ll be there at the end”. and they were.
The Sharks are reminding me more and more of the Detroit Red Wings in their “machine” days, when it was obvious they knew they were going to win, almost daring you to beat them. The Sharks seem to be growing into that kind of mentality.
My feeling going into the Calgary series was that if the Sharks survived it and were healthy, it’d be hard for anyone to stop them. Coming out of the series, I feel that way even more. It certainly doesn’t get any easier in round 2 — but it’s not going to be harder. And the Sharks have toughened and gotten that confidence going again, so watch out.
Gotta give credit to a few folks: Kirprusoff had an awesome series, despite being pulled twice. the first time, it worked. Last night, it blew up in Keenan’s face, with joseph giving up a goal almost immediately and effectively putting the game out of reach. Keenan, of course, put the onus on Kiprusoff in the post-game interviews and not on his decision to put a cold goalie in against a team putting on a big rush. Sometimes the coach’s strategy works, sometimes it blows up, but that’s the goalie’s fault.
(and why did Keenan not show up in the handshake line? A bit classless, Mike. just like throwing Kiprusoff under the bus after the game. way to go, guy).
Also big kudos to Iginla, who worried me that he might beat the sharks singlehandedly, and sure tried. In game 7, everywhere he went, Joe Pavelski was there making sure the pass didn’t get through cleanly — and in the third, I’m not sure Iginla ever really left the ice. I haven’t seen formal numbers, but he had at least 12 minutes, I think, playing a forward shift with his line, then double-shifting at D with Phaneuf. Talk about a stud. (oh, and Phaneuf was the third stud. he’s a punk and a fairly dirty player, but he’s also very good and effective at it).
Finally, congrats to Owen Nolan, probably playing his last game (and also to ex-shark Wayne Primeau, who also made the Sharks moderately miserable in the series). Been fun to watch him all season playing well after most of us thought he was done years ago, and in this series, he was a force and scored a number of key goals.
But the big question in Calgary is how they’re going to make that team better; I don’t think Keenan is the answer (in today’s NHL, can he be?), and that team played its heart out, and it wasn’t good enough. Sutter has some tough decisions to make. First one I’d suggest is whether Keenan is who you want behind the bench. Sutter, bluntly, would have been in that handshake line, and that is to me a symptom of the bigger issues that Keenan carries with him; Scotty Bowman was never a “player’s coach”, but Keenan’s act wears out very quickly, and if his job was to take the Flames to the next level and get them deeper into the playoffs, it didn’t work. We’ll see. I know what my answer is, but then, my answer never involves hiring Keenan in the first place.
Anyway, a couple of days off, and back to the war. So what’s the 2nd round look like? And how’d I do in the first?
In the west, I was 3-1; picked san jose, detroit and colorado, missed Anaheim. In the east, I was also 3-1, picking Montreal, Pittsburgh, and the Rangers, missing Philadelphia. Not a bad start…. And both of my cup final picks are still live, even better (montreal/san jose)
So in Round 2
East: Montreal/Philly: I’ll take Montreal in 6. I like how they’re playing, and I think Price will outplay Biron. but it won’t be easy.
Penguins/Rangers: I think this one’s a tough one to call, but I’ll go Pittsburgh in 7. it can go either way, but I think the Pens will win this one.
West: Detroit/Colorado: in this case, I think the obvious answer is Detroit, but I’m not happy with the goaltending (neither is anyone in Detroit), and the Wings look vulnerable. And Jose Theodore has turned back into a goaltender. So I’ll take Colorado in 6.
San jose/Dallas: Nabokov? Or turco? San Jose? or Dallas? the teams have played very even this year, but the Sharks are on a run, and I don’t think Turco can play better goal than Kirprusoff did. 2nd round isn’t by any means easier for San Jose, but I don’t think it’s harder. Sharks in 5.
Drop the puck already!
(no, give us a couple of days for our ears to stop ringing…)
update: Mike Keenan skipping the post-series handshake is even more curious given this quote he gave just a few days ago:
To shake, or not to shake
Mike Keenan says never has he snubbed an opponent in a post-series handshake ceremony.
“No, but I’ve had other people mad at me who didn’t to shake my hand,” the Flames skipper said with a smile. “Pat Quinn (then coaching the Canucks) didn’t shake my hand when we won (the Stanley Cup) in New York. Other than that, everybody else has.”
The series-concluding ritual became a hot topic Friday when New Jersey netminder Martin Brodeur wouldn’t extend his hand to Rangers tormentor Sean Avery after New York dispatched the Devils.
“I think it’s part of the tradition of a hockey series,” said Keenan. “It’s the way it always has been, I don’t know why we would change it.”
(found in, among other places, the)
Joe Thornton scored the winning goal on a deflection with eight seconds remaining as the San Jose Sharks rallied for a 3-2 victory over the Calgary Flames in Game 4 of their Western Conference quarter-final series on Tuesday night.
You really didn’t think it was going to be that easy, did you?
Well, some of you did. And some of you have been alternately tossing yourselves off roofs or hyperventilating into paper bags.
Of course, it’s the pundit’s job to encourage this kind of over-hyper-analysis — whether it’s blogs, newspapers or CBC, they have time to fill, and so of course they want to fill it with Serious Stuff.
In reality, though, it still takes four games to win or lose a series. And that’s really the core of the San Jose/Calgary series: two really good, well-matched up, exceptionally well-coached teams in a seven game chess match. I got a number of emails from people after game 1 freaking, whe in reality, all that really mattered was a split in San Jose. And ditto game 3, when in fact until a team gets a third win or has a two win lead, it’s just part of the process.
And now it’s best of 3, with two games in San Jose. San Jose had the “first game at home” jitters in game one and while really outplaying the Flames after the first 7 minutes, still lost. The Flames did the same thing in game 3, first time at home in a couple of weeks — but found a way to get desperate enough to take the game back.
And now, four games later, we’ve decided nothing. San Jose “should” still win this series — but “should” and “will” are really different things. It’s very evenly matched. And the Sharks proved they could respond to the loss in game 3, and now Calgary has to do the same after having a lead (despite being more or less blown out of the building) late, only to lose with 8 seconds left. Major body and morale blow.
But both of these teams are proving to be master counter-punchers. Game 5 should be fun. Easy? nope. But fun.
Before the series, I said the Flames couldn’t beat San Jose, but Iginla and Kiprusoff could. That is really what’s going on. The series is tied because of three key factors:
1) Kiprusoff is playing exceptionally well, almost unbeatable.
2) the Flames forecheck is making the Sharks crazy and generating some nasty turnovers, and…
3) the sharks Defense (especially McLaren and Campbell) are struggling under that pressure, and so the sharks are losing pucks in situations that the Flames capitalize on for key goals, and fighting to get offensive pushes going. McLaren just doesn’t look healthy to me, and Campbell’s aggressiveness is being turned back at him by a well-coached Flames team.
Get away from the partisanship of being a Sharks fan or a Flames fan, and this is one hell of a great series full of great, gutty hockey.
A few other thoughts about the series:
any remaining doubters about Marleau, or about Marleau as captain, or about Marleau as a shark, can shut up now. marleau has emerged as a great captain, just not a noisy one. And for those of you don’t believe captains can be quiet, ask Joe Sakic or Steve Yzerman. And no, Patty’s not to either of those guy’s level yet, but he’s taking a huge step forward this series.
People who’ve been madly cheering Campbell should slow down and realize that a Dman that plays that aggressive is going to get burnt at times — and right now, he is. As Sandis Ozolinsh in his prime used to prove, a guy like that will generate lots of scoring chances; we just don’t know for which team. I’m not criticizing Campbell here — but the people who want to think you can have a player like that without the negatives his game style comes with. Personally, I’ll take my chances with him any time.
I still haven’t seen much out of Michalek. I saw more in game 4 than the previous three, but he’s still not holding his own. Cheechoo and Thornton really stepped up in game 4, especially late.
And so to game 5. And it’s too close to call — and I like it that way. (for now)
“I’ll share those thoughts with the league and with the supervisor of officials,” said Keenan, whose side was saddled with six straight minors in a nine-minute span in the second period. “I’m not going to comment on it. I don’t have a comment on it . . . I’m biting my tongue here.”
Flames captain Jarome Iginla was more outspoken about the penalty disparity — but not by much.
“I haven’t seen that (a string of penalties) in a playoff game. It wasn’t even that vicious. Nah, it’s a tough one,” said Iginla. “We didn’t agree with a lot of things, and it wasn’t just the calls that were against us. It was also when Owen (Nolan) was on a breakaway (and getting hauled down) . . . that was real frustrating.”
Here is one of those great mysteries of being a hockey fan: that players and coaches somehow continue to believe that it doesn’t matter whether one team is taking penalties or not — that somehow the referees should keep the penalty calling “even”, even if the actual play isn’t.
In other words, if one team keeps taking more penalties because, say, they’re on the edge of being blown out fo the building and barely hanging on, the referees sill shouldn’t call “too many” penalties on them (i.e., let them get away with them!), and if they don’t stop calling them, or go find trivial things to call the other team on.
In other words, it’s the referee’s job to not call a game as it happens, but to somehow keep the game balanced by not “over” calling a team that’s taking penalties because it’s struggling.
In any event, during that 2nd period disaster by the Flames, every penalty called on them was deserved. And a few weren’t called that could have made it even worse. The team was on the edge, it’s play shambles, and they were hanging on (literally, at times) for their very game-life. And if it wasn’t for Kiprusoff, it could have been a serious blowout.
And the Nolan pull-down? Rules are pretty clear here: if you’re going for the puck, and you contact the puck first, then it’s a legal play and not tripping. Unless, of course, you’re looking for the referees to “balance’ the game. Which, in fact, they tried to do in the third….
On the other hand, when a team starts blaming refs instead of looking at it’s own bad play, it’s starting down the path of finding excuses for losing — and in the playoffs, once a team gets that in their head, game over. Keenan is running a knife-edge here between playing the refs to get an advantage and putting it in his player’s heads they can’t win because the refs won’t let them, and if the players get that mind-set going, it’s over.
Of course, it could be over anyway. That save on Nolan with 5 minutes left, you could just see the Flames deflate. They were manhandled much of the game, blown out in the 2nd (except for Kiprusoff), and the few times they really got good shots, Nabokov stopped them cold. And then the Nolan shot, where Nabokov almost looked like he was beyond out of the play and somehow got it — that could be the place where the Flames start thinking they can’t beat this guy.
Still not at the point where I’m hockey blogging reliably yet, but wanted to get this in (and once I free up some time and energy, I have some stuff I want to get written….)
So here’s my predictions for the 1st round and my picks for the cup final. One thing I can guarantee: gonna be some fun hockey in the playoffs.
(1) Detroit vs (8) Nashville: seems like a no brainer, but Nashville’s had their number this year to some degree. However, Detroit has this ability to step it up in the playoffs, and it’ll be interesting to see how well they do that. Nashville is going to try, but I’ll take Detroit in 5.
(2) San Jose vs. (7) Calgary: I don’t think the Flames can beat the Sharks. I do worry that Kiprusoff and Iginla can. If they choose to take over the series, watch out. I don’t think it’ll happen. Only the Sharks can beat the Sharks, and this year, they don’t seem to be planning on it. Sharks in 5.
(3) Minnesota vs (6) Colorado: The western match that just doesn’t interest me much. I do think Colorado will take it, I don’t think either team gets out of the second round. Colorado in 6, but someone wake up the goal judges…
(4) Anaheim vs (5) Dallas: Here’s the series I’m rooting to be long, to be full of overtime, to go 7 games. anything to let these two teams beat the crap out of each other. I do think Anaheim will prevail. I don’t know if it’ll be four games or see, but I don’t see much in between. I think Dallas has a chance — I don’t think Dallas will succeed at taking it. Anaheim in 6.
coming out of the west: San Jose (well, duh)
(1) Montreal vs. (8) Boston: to me, the only gimme in either conference. Maybe because Boston hasn’t been able to beat Montreal since Dryden was in goal? Montreal looks to have the easiest (note: not easy) path out of the first round here, perhaps a rested team will make later rounds easier for them. Montreal in 4.
Note: every time I turn around, I see someone else doing the “the last time a rookie….” thing and comparing Price to a young Patrick Roy. Talk about a load to lay onto a youngster ON TOP OF actually having to win in the playoffs. However, I haven’t seen much to indicate the kid isn’t able to handle the pressure, but whoof. Let him win a series before sending his number into the rafters, folks.
(2) Pittsburgh vs (7) Ottawa: My sens fans are gonna hate me for saying this, but Ottawa is little better than Boston here. Unlike Boston, I don’t think “happy to make the playoffs” will make losing in the first round better. Pittsburgh in 5, and Ottawa needs some serious help. and a #1 goalie that isn’t a walking braincramp (hint to emery: when you win, you’re eccentric. when you stop winning, you’re a cancer. any questions?)
(3) washington vs. (6) Philadelphia: oh, what a run. And may it continue. the Caps are fun to watch. I’m not sure how the Flyers are going to handle them, and I like Huet better as a goalie, proven or not. Capitals in 6, and here’s hoping they make life interesting and miserable for the east for a while…
(4) New Jersey vs. (5) NY Rangers: I hate betting against Martin Brodeur — but I will. I’m not hugely thrilled by the Rangers, either — both teams are flawed — but I think the reign of the Devils is over. Rangers in 5.
coming out of the east: Montreal.