Archive for the ‘Playoffs’ category

The Cup Resides in Chicago – Some Thoughts in The Afterglow

June 12, 2010

 

It finally happened…. 

In my lifetime… 

The Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup! 

Ahhh, the celebration amidst friends and family was sweet indeed.  I was hoping to have pics by now of us celebrating, and me wearing my Bobby Hull autographed sweatshirt, but will post those when I receive them via email. 

There was a time, right after the Hawks bumped off the Sharks, that I thought the Cup was going to be theirs.  I wasn’t going to make predictions though, or write about their shortcomings, or about how Patrick Kane still rubs me the wrong way a little bit.  I just thought that the worst competition was eliminated and that Philadelphia wouldn’t be that tough – but then I hadn’t really seen much of any of the Flyers’ games.  

I really want to take my hat off to Philly.  I mean, they ground, and crashed, and limped and fought the Hawks all the way.  While all eyes were looking at Anti Niemi to be the weak spot, nobody looked to Michael Leighton.  Sure he was great earlier in the playoffs but he’s still Michael Leighton and against a high firepower team like the Hawks, I wasn’t sure he could handle it.  

In the end, Niemi wasn’t a weak spot, even though he wasn’t great either. 

Michael Leighton was a weak spot.  

Goalies.  This series showed how important they can be in a game.  If either goalie got relatively hot in this series- I don’t mean scalding Patrick Roy hot,  just a notch above Anti Niemi- the series would’ve definitely gone to that team.   

Philly needs to look at their goaltending situation in the off season.  That last goal just shouldn’t happen. Period. 

Speaking of which, that has to be the most bizarre finish to a tournament competition in the history of sports.    We sat there watching, not sure to jump and scream or wait for the next face off or what.  Kane saw it go in , and Leighton knew it was in as well (I just think Leighton was trying to sell it to the ref that he had it in his pads and was hoping for a whistle.)  Everyone else just looked and thought, “What happened?”  (I love how Anti Niemi acted when Kane jumped him.  He acted like someone in an airport getting hugged by a person who mistook him for someone else.) 

Then there’s this song from YouTube that pokes fun at how many people jumped on the Blackhawks Bandwagon.  To be truthful, it got frustrating in how getting tickets for the Blackhawks was like getting tickets for the Chicago Cubs.  I mean, sure you could get tickets, but the tickets from the 300 level and above were the first ones to sell out.  It just cost too darn much and was too hard to get a group of folks together for a game at a reasonable price.   I mean, there can’t be that many people who know hockey in this city, right? 

But, as with the Cubs, when everybody loves a team (incidentally, I’m a Sox fan) everyone left doesn’t want to be left out. (Witness 2 million people at the rally today!)  One thing is for sure: John McDonough and crew know how to market.  

Still, here my brothers and I had a Blackhawk head painted on the floor of our basement when we were kids in the early 70’s!  (It’s still there when we sold the house this May, as this picture will attest.) 

The Hawks Emblem on the Basement Floor from My Childhood - Look Closely, it's There.

 

So yeah, it felt at times that it was (more…)

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Is Parity Sustainable in a 30 Team NHL? and The NHL NEEDS to Fix the Point System

April 19, 2010

The NHL playoffs are underway and there have been multiple ‘upsets’ and some tight and exciting games in this year’s opening round.   I think it shows just how much parity there is in the league.  Yes, the Eastern Conference had a 33 point spread between the first and last placed playoff teams (an 18 point spread in the West) but the playoffs are showing that when the Cup is on the line, a 33 point spread might not mean all that much.   

In some ways, we should expect this.  With salary caps and a league that holds 30 teams, it makes sense that concentrated talent on a team, like that which was on the Edmonton Oilers of old,  is something that will be hard to build.  Add to that the AHL, from which NHL quality players (NHL quality for a 30 team league) are shuffled back and forth at will and the talent pool that the NHL utilizes is deep and broad.

This means that teams, even if they are injury riddled, can stay competitive and pickup points, until playoff time.  Then if they can stay healthy through the playoffs, expect them to make some noise, even if they don’t have the horses to make it to the Cup finals.

Is this good or bad?  In some ways it’s great for hockey but it also means that the NHL/AHL network, broad as it is, probably isn’t as Elite as we’d like to think it is.  Sure, great athletes are in the mix, but in general, it’s the teamwork that makes the teams, and teamwork doesn’t sign contracts for millions of dollars -dollars that have to be made somewhere, usually in rising ticket prices.

So, in a weird twist, even with salary caps, this huge league network may have the seeds of  becoming unsustainable because the distinguishing element of the league is not tied directly to team income.

Bizarre, isn’t it?

Speaking of bizarre (more…)

8 to Go

May 11, 2009

Wow…

I was wrong.  Hawks won.  They keep finding ways of pulling it out.  They keep making sloppy plays in their own end, they keep falling behind, yet they come from behind, score goals in frenzied bunches and win.

Vancouver lost today because the Hawks had them where they wanted them.  After the first two games, Vancouver tried different game plans and never found their groove.

After the game 5 win, Vancouver panicked and totally left their game plan.  The result was a disastrous 7-5 loss.

So what does it mean for the Hawks?

Vancouver was tougher than Calgary and the next round tougher still, but the teams that the Hawks will face prior to the finals have not played the greatest against the Hawks in regular season.

Does this mean I’m predicting the Hawks to win it all now?

The stars are aligning, some big teams have gotten bumped already and it’s beginning to look alot like Christmas for this year’s Hawks.

So…will they win it all?

I’ll wait to see who they play next round before predicitng, but as I said at the start of this entry, I don’t think you can come from behind forever, and make bad defensive plays forever and win the Cup.

I’d love to see it and as these playoffs are going, they now have a shot.  But I think it’ll go wide.

I’m hoping for a tip-in in overtime.

Let’s go Hawks!!

Is the Series Really up to the Goalies?

April 25, 2009
Nikolai Khabibulin and Mikka Kiprusoff have seen their share of rubber, but are they the reason the series is tied?

Nikolai Khabibulin and Mikka Kiprusoff have seen their share of rubber, but are they the reason the series is tied?

There’s been alot of talk around the quality of goaltending in this series. Here are my observations:

This Calgary post seems to say that the series thus far, and the future of it, has been and will be decided by Calgary goaltending.  While I agree that goaltending looms huge in the playoffs, I wouldn’t say that either goalie has been overly lax in their duties thus far.  Yes, both have let in less than stellar goals, but the Calgary writer points the finger at Kiprusoff for not holding a three goal lead. 

I can’t do the same.  Calgary’s work ethic is at fault, not the goaltending.  I watched the game and saw a change in the Calgary toughness and execution right after they took the 4-1 lead.  I was travelling and watching the game on the East Coast so I had hoped I could get to sleep early when Calgary took the aforementioned lead.  But, after Calgary made it 4-1, I sensed a shift in work ethic and I thought, “I think the Hawks will make a game of this.”  They did.

On the Chicago side we have this and this that talk about Khabby’s greatness and professionalism, etc.  Again, I think it’s wrong to hang everything on the goalie here as well.  However, ever since I saw the Bulin Wall get dismantled by the Chicago Wolves in the IHL playoffs (1998) when he was playing for the Long Beach Ice Dogs, one thing is clear: As the team goes, so goes Khabibulin. 

Yes, he’s got the ability to singlehandedly save a game but is he a goalie that will do that all the time even when the team around him is rattled and crumbling?

No.  Just because Khabibulin is signed for an outrageous sum of money does not make him equal to, or better than, Martin Brodeur.  Sorry.

However, Khabibulin is smart enough to know the score and what it will take to win.  He didn’t say, “If I step up my game we’ll win this.”  That may have been an accurate statement but he’d have to become supergoalie and that’s not a realistic recipe for wining the series.  Instead he simply said: “We execute, we win.”

BINGO!

Execution.  That’s what the series comes down to. 

On the one hand you’ve got the Calgary Flames, a team that will win this series if it throws its weight around, plays with focus and passion, and keeps the young Hawk team on its heels.

On the other you’ve got a passionate,  inexperienced, young team (“Young Sticks”-like “Young Guns” as my cousin calls them) that more often than not though, looks like they’re in over their heads when Calgary takes the game to them. 

I think you can see where this is leading.  The common denominator in both scenarios is Calgary, not the goalies.  Thus far both netminders have played well enough for wins; not phenomenal but good enough. What will determine this series is Calgary’s ability to play 60 minutes of solid, body crunching hockey. 

If there are times Calgary doesn’t, it’s up to Marty Havlat and the rest of the Hawks to blow through the breach and make Calgary pay.

As Khabibulin said, “We execute, we win.”

Wolves Run Aground Against Admirals -Out of Playoff Hunt

April 5, 2009
The Man Behind the Helm of the Wolves

The Man Behind the Helm of the Wolves

With the calmness and coolness of the Captain of the Titanic, Coach Don Granato let his team drift into oblivion for the ’08-’09 season after never getting control of the ship all year.

With the loss to the Milwaukee Admirals today, the Wolves have failed to make the playoffs for only the second time in their illustrious history.  As I sat in Milwaukee watching today, I found it hard to believe that the team I was watching took 57 minutes to finally  play with something resembling desperation. 

The fans of the Wolves, and the AHL, deserve better.

A Winning Work Ethic? It’s Not What I see, Coach Granato.

March 31, 2009

Ok, at first I was going to do a video rant about last nite and ask twitterville to make it viral, but I decided against it.  So,  I waited 24 hours after the debacle so that I could cool down and not say something I’d be sorry for.

I wouldn’t be so ticked about the loss to Milwaukee (Ok, maybe I would be) if I didn’t read the article entitled “Work Ethic” in the new, Breakaway magazine (which is a great idea and looks great!).

You see, the article is about Head Coach, Don Granato and discusses his philosophy.

“My coaching philosophy is simple: it is based solely on work ethic, and this team has proven day in and day out that the philosophy works.”

Ooookay, now it’s clear someone doesn’t see what I (and others!) see. 

This Wolves team is only three games above .500 and 3 points out of the final playoff spot, tied for 5th place with Iowa only 2 points ahead of Quad Cities.  In the worst case, but still realistic scenario, the Wolves could finish in 7th(!!!) place.  

Is this indicative of a work ethic that is good? 

If so, your standards are waay too low, Coach.

Call us Wolves fans spoiled, but I see (more…)

Incentive Proposal for the NHL and AHL

January 17, 2009

While speaking with an usher at the completion of the Wolves game  tonight, we hit on something that personally, I kind of like!

“Since it seems so many NHL teams are made up of so many AHL’ers, how about if the Wolves win the Calder Cup again this year they go up to the NHL?” he said as people passed him by heading for the exits.

I paused and responded:

“And whoever has the worst record in the NHL moves into the AHL the following year!”

No we’re on to something.  Worst NHL team goes AHL, and best AHL goes NHL.

 The kicker would be if John Anderson and the Thrashers finished worst in the league. 

What a kick in the head that would be!

What do you think of this idea??