Archive for the ‘Stanley Cup’ 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…)

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…)

It’s Almost Over

May 24, 2009

melt michael plishka 2009

The meltdown occurred.

A young Blackhawks team that has battled its way out of adversity in the past has met its match.  Now, while the series is not yet over, being down 3-1 and being drubbed 6-1 in game 4, in your home building, is basically a cue to get tee times ready for next week.

I was particularly puzzled and disappointed by Coach Q’s complaint about the officiating, especially when there were plenty of other things to find fault with, namely the play on the ice. 

Once again, Brian Campbell made it clear why his playoff play has been questioned in the past by making us question it again in the present.

I’ve been pulling for Huet and saying he can be as good as Khabibulin but he wasn’t great today.  He was great at times, but overall, when he needed to make stops, he didn’t.

Duncan Keith and the rest of the defensive crew once again showed that when the pressure’s on, they make stupid plays.  

Again, Kane and Toews couldn’t get free and threaten.

Oh, did I mention that this loss was to a Detroit team that was minus stars, Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk?

I’m not disappointed in what the Hawks did this year.  They surpassed my predictions and expectations, but I had a feeling, as I mentioned before, that this round would be the end of the line – or the beginning of the line to the First Tee.

It’s been a good run. 

Thanks, Hawks, and I hope you at least can bring the Wings back to Chicago for a better send off for yourselves and the Wings.

This year deserves better.

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!!

Bring on Vancouver!

April 28, 2009

hawks1

Well, the Hawks made it past Calgary in my predicted 6 games by capitalizing on Calgary mistakes and not making too many of their own.

Now, it’s Vancouver.  A team that the Hawks had trouble with all year; a team I was hoping they wouldn’t play first round because they’d get bumped before they could get experience.

As I’ve said before, the second round will be the Hawks’ end of the line.  I’d love it if it wouldn’t be, but I don’t think the Hawks have the ability to beat the Canucks.

Now, it IS playoffs, and anything can happen, but Calgary was tougher than alot of people imagined; Vancouver will be tougher.

The Hawks will get some great experience in this round, but veteran leadership and a better team will prevail. Vancouver in 5.  (It is possible the series could go 6, but I’ll stick with 5.) A great assessment of the series here.

Nevertheless…

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.”

One Down, Fifteen to Go

April 16, 2009
Havlat Wins it in OT! (NHL Network)

Havlat Wins it in OT! (NHL Network)

I jumped out of the car as I had returned from the pharmacy.

Just in time to catch the OT…

It wasn’t!

By the time I walked in and turned the TV on, Marty Havlat had scored the winning goal at the 00:12 mark, giving the Hawks a 1-0 series lead over the Calgary Flames.

Great game and the Hawks battled the entire way which was a good sign.  However,  for a the Flames (a team the Hawks dominated in the regular season) to challenge the Hawks as they did makes one realize the caliber of playoff hockey.

While I don’t think Calgary will win this series, I think that it will be a tough go for the Hawks and an indication that the next round will not be pretty.

As I’ve said all along, I don’t think the Hawks will survive the second round.

The good news is they are getting some great, intense playoff experience – this young team needs it sorely.  It’s no coincidence that Havlat stepped up scoring today.

Go Hawks!