Category Archives: Hockey

Is decor a dirty word?

My most prized bit of sports decor: a framed 8x10 of Hall of Fame goaltender Gerald Michael "Cheesey" Cheevers. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
My most prized bit of sports decor: a framed 8×10 of Hall of Fame goaltender Gerald Michael “Cheesey” Cheevers. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

I like my sports stuff. Photos, cards, jerseys… you name it, I’ve got a few. My favourite piece for years has been an 8×10 Gerry Cheevers signed for me when he was in town for a Vancouver Giants Legends Night— dude, CHEEVERS! Two Stanley Cups, the 1974 Canada Cup, a stint in the WHA, and that iconic mask, are you kidding me? This guy is the very epitome of old timey hockey. He’s even got his own three-chord proto-punk song, for crying out loud.

Mrs Pucked in the Head isn’t so wild about having 8x10s and pucks littered about the place, however, even if they have been scribbled upon by ageing professional athletes. I have to pick and choose what goes up on the wall, and what goes into storage. (Sure, I’m a sucker for cutesy pictures of our daughter, but we’ve got plenty of those photos around the rest of the house. I can moon over her adorableness in just about any other room, at pretty much any time, so I stamp this room with my own personal clutter, thank you very much.)

Probably the prettiest medal I've earned so far came from the 2014 Rock n Roll Vancouver half marathon. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Probably the prettiest medal I’ve earned so far came from the 2014 Rock n Roll Vancouver half marathon. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Since I started running last year, for example, I’ve managed to assemble a fistful of finisher medals from 10k races, half marathons and that one bloody full marathon I did back in May. Throw a few of those on the curtain rod, and they look all right. Add some hockey memorabilia and a small collection of tribal masks acquired during various vacations, and you’ve got a cosy little office space.

Continue reading Is decor a dirty word?

Tate Olson, Vancouver Canucks draftee

Here’s photographic evidence that Tate Olson indeed plays the game of hockey. He was selected 210th overall by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.

Tate Olson, 210th selection in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Tate Olson was selected 210th overall by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Photo by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.

Hawks in five

The Stanley Cup final promises to be one of the most entertaining in years. The Chicago Blackhawks are on the verge of their third Stanley Cup win in six years, which would put them as close to unlocking the dynasty achievement badge as we’re likely to see a team get in our lifetimes. Good lord, look at the roster: there are four legitimate Hall of Fame candidates in their top six alone. Across the ice, Steven Stamkos wants to cement legend status by winning his first; it may be surprising scoring machine Tyler Johnson, and not the suddenly clutch goaltender Ben Bishop, who gets him that ring.

Jonathan Toews and Steven Stamkos go head to head in the 2015 Stanley Cup final. Images wontonly stolen from the interweb.
Jonathan Toews and Steven Stamkos go head to head in the 2015 Stanley Cup final. Images wontonly stolen from the interweb.

Both teams had ten players score in double digits in 2014-15, and both teams had dominant goal differentials (Tampa was second overall at +51, while Chicago’s +40 was fourth). The season series was split at a win apiece, with the Hawks taking an overtime 3-2 decision and the Lightning shutting out Chicago 4-0. Keep in mind that second game took place just after Patrick Kane fractured his clavicle; Bishop likely won’t be earning many more shutouts in this series.

Forwards — advantage Hawks

The Bolts were the top team in scoring this year. Stamkos had 43 goals by himself, while Johnson and Nikita Kucherov each added 29.  After the top line, fans outside the Atlantic Division may ask themselves, “Who the hell is that?” — Cedric Paquette and Alex Killorn aren’t exactly household names — but suffice it to say that this is a team with a few mid-grade weapons at its disposal. That said, the bottom six has contributed just one goal out of the past 20 for the Lightning.

The Hawks have Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp to throw over the boards. They’re tired? How about Conn Smythe winner Brad Richards, or playoff performer extraordinaire Andrew Shaw? This team may not have led the league in scoring — they were 16th overall, in fact — but they know how to score when it counts, and they’ve only gotten stronger as a unit as the playoffs have gone on. Witness the complete Game Seven shutdown of the vaunted Anaheim Ducks roster. Check Toews’ insistence upon dominating important games.

Clutch.

Defensemen — advantage Hawks

Duncan Keith was insane in the final two games against the Ducks. He saw nearly 28 minutes of ice in that exhaustingly intense Game Seven, and remember this is a series that saw two looooooooong overtime games early on. Niklas Hjalmarsson wasn’t far behind at 26:45, and in fact the Hawks rely pretty damned heavily upon their big top four. Brent Seabrook and Johnny Oduya were both over 23 minutes.

On the other side, Victor Hedmanand Anton Stralman  are the only men getting even close to this kind of ice time. Jason Garrison and Matt Carle hover around the 20-minute mark, but lose their effectiveness should they be asked to up that substantially. These guys are good depth blueliners — look at Garrison’s number five spot when he played in Vancouver — but lack the footspeed and game smarts to deal with Chicago’s wave-upon-wave of finesse-laden attack.

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender and Mayberry mayoral candidate Ben Bishop
I’m sure Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender and Mayberry mayoral candidate Ben Bishop is a nice fella, but does this look like a Cup winner to you?

Goaltending — advantage Bolts

Herein lies Tampa Bay’s best chance at a second championship in franchise history. Ben Bishop had far fewer hiccoughs than highlights; Corey Crawford, on the glove hand, too often relies upon that stable of scorers to outshine his bad nights.  Good grief, he let in nearly three goals a game against the Ducks. If Stamkos & Co. get in his head, this series — and thus the Cup —could go south in a hurry.

Coaching — advantage Hawks

There are cookie crumbs in Joel Quenneville’s moustache  that have been behind an NHL bench longer than Jon Cooper. Sure, the latter presents Jon Cooper’s story, but Coach Q’s duster has kissed two Cups and a Jack Adams award. Quenneville is the winningest coach among active bench bosses — not including playoff totals, he has 653 more NHL wins than Cooper. Look, I’m not saying anything bad against the new guy. It’s just that, well, Q has been there. Coops has read about it. You’ve gotta go with the experience.

Prediction: Chicago Blackhawks in 5.
Conn Smythe: Duncan Keith

Blackhawks in 5.

Chicago Blackhawks versus Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2016 Stanley Cup final.
The Chicago Blackhawks will win their third Stanley Cup in six years when they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning this week.

Episode 67: Babcock, Russians and Brian Burke’s ego

Russell and Jason wax poetic on a range of hockey topics, from Mike Babcock’s monster contract to Brian Burke’s monster ego and Ilya Kovalchuk’s monster cajones.

• Introduction
• Pop Tart Girl by the Orchid Highway
• The Russians have left the ice
• McKayla is unimpressed with Ilya Kovalchuk
• Kudos to Alex Ovechkin
• Mike Babcock is a Leaf. What a shocker
• Kessel & Phaneuf, your days are numbered
• Brian Burke, one ego to rule them all
• Will there be apotheosis for Babs in T-dot?
• Who will be GM?
• The Wreck of the Maple Leafs Season — a parody by Peter Gross

Even McKayla Maroney was unimpressed with the Russians' lack of sportsmanship at the recent World Championships.
Even McKayla Maroney was unimpressed with the Russians’ lack of sportsmanship at the recent World Championships.

Round two: PITH predictions

We at Pucked in the Head don’t hang our heads in shame and tears just because the Vancouver Canucks had their behinds handed to them by the low-down, dirty, rotten, head-shottin’, potshottin’, ball-droppin’ Flames. Nay, we hold our heads high and own our team’s decades-long failure to bring a Cup to the west coast. At least we’re not the bloody Leafs, right?

And so, we put our heads together and prognosticate the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for your scoffing pleasure.

New York Rangers vs Washington Capitals
Jason:
Kudos to the Capitals for skirting past the New York Islanders, but even with Alex Ovechkin honouring defensive assignments they won’t have enough to get past the Vigneault-led Blueshirts. Lundqvist outsaves Braden Holtby in a series whose brevity belies hard-fought games. Rangers in five.

Chris: If there’s anything to indicate that Washington can take New York in a best-of-seven, I haven’t seen it. The Rangers steamrolled Pittsburgh and then took the weekend off while the Islanders gave the Caps all they could handle. (That’s right: Eleven shots on goal is about all the Capitals could handle.) Ovechkin may be the best player in this series, but New York is deeper, and Alain Vigneault shouldn’t even need a full pack of lozenges to out-coach Barry Trotz. Rangers in five.

Montreal Canadiens vs Tampa Bay Lightning
Chris: 
Should be a barn-burner. The Lightning netted a whopping 41 more goals than the Habs during the regular season, but Montreal’s defence was much stronger. On recent form, my money goes to Tampa. They dispatched Detroit without a single goal from Steven Stamkos, and you can only hold that man off the score sheet for so long. Meanwhile, the Canadiens were lucky to get past Ottawa in a game six where a referee’s untimely whistle cost the Sens a tying goal in a contest they dominated. Lightning in seven.

Jason: Kudos to the Bolts for getting past the ageing wreck of a Red Wings team that barely made the post-season. I mean, the Wings have only been mired in a Mike Babcock will-he-or-won’t-he story all year long, and got to Game Seven on the strength of a handful of nobodies ruddering a ship full of greybeards. The Habs, on the other hand, have been the class of the East for a couple of seasons, boast perennial candidates for the Norris and Vezina trophies, and ride the winds of the most powerfully emotional fan support in North American sport. Individually, what’s not to love about seeing PK Subban flatten Steven Stamkos? These guys have been playing hockey against each other for twenty years already, and damned if it ain’t more fun every year. Canadiens in six.

Anaheim Ducks vs Calgary Flames
Jason: 
Do we really have to talk about this? Where the Canucks and Flames both exceeded expectations by just making the dance in the first place, the Ducks have been promising a deep run for years. Getzlaf, Kesler, Perry, Beauchemin, Fowler… This roster is deeper than any of the wrinkles walking into Botox clinics around the Honda Center. The Flames are hard-working, sure, but they’re just a bunch of Grade Eight boys hanging about in the corner, ogling the good looking seniors across the gymnasium floor. Ducks in two and a half.

Chris: Seeing the Flames in the second round is enough to make me want to vomit like I’d just eaten undercooked fowl. Undercooked, by the way, is exactly what I expect these particular fowl to be at the end of the Pacific Division Final. The Flames are a terrible possession team, and their luck won’t get them close enough to roast the Ducks. The Saddledome crowd helps Hiller steal one from his old team, but Ducks in five.

Chicago Blackhawks vs Minnesota Wild
Chris: 
Devan Dubnyk has been outstanding, but I’m not convinced he can hold off the Hawks’ firepower. Both teams have high-end defencemen that can do a number on the opposition’s top line, but the Wild lack the offensive depth that Chicago has in spades. One ray of hope for Minnesota: Corey Crawford is in net, and Chicago conceded 21 goals to a similarly dubious offensive team in Nashville. The goaltending disparity will keep the series interesting, but Chicago outscores its problems. Hawks in six.

Jason: The Chicago Blackhawks have somehow flown under most people’s radars this season. Jeez Louise, people, this team is full of all-Stars, Olympians and beauties who fuckin’ work their nuts off, and has won two of the past five Stanley Cups. As for the Wild, Thomas Vanek has been promising to do something important in the playoffs for years, but hasn’t helped a team win anything since the 2003 Golden Gophers took the NCAA championship. Maybe it’s unfair to saddle the guy with his teams’ lack of success, but damnation, does this guy ever know how to pull a disappearing act in the post-season. Ryan Suter can’t do everything, man. Hawks in five.

Episode 62: A little Help! for the Sedins

A tough week for Vancouver sports fans, as the Canucks, Whitecaps and Stealth all lose on home turf. Is there light at the end of the rainy, oil-slicked tunnel?

• Introduction
• Sofa Surfer Girl by the Orchid Highway
• Vancouver Canucks: plosion guards extraordinaires
• Russell sucks at basketball brackets
• The Canucks outperformed expectations
• The Flames deserved the win
• Stats don’t apply to the Calgary Flames
• Call-in shows feature some… interesting people
• Breaking: Willie Desjardins is 114 years old
• Don’t bring a nativity scene onto the ice
• If you don’t like the twins, you’re a bad person
• People still talk trash about Luongo
• The Sediins & Bobby Lu will be in the Hall of Fame
• Russell: Break up the Sedins
• Vrbata-Bonino-Higgins: a great third line
• Refrain: The twins need help
• Help! by the Beatles

The Playoff Beard Diary: Day 9 – Blackjack does not happen very often

Pucked in the Head is proud to welcome Richard Davalos (@QuakesFan84) and his Playoff Beard Diary. For those growing facial hair, we salute you! Just… maybe not for much longer.

Who wants to go to Vegas? Twenty-one years ago the Vancouver Canucks were in this exact position, down three games to one to the Calgary Flames, but that’s right where the similarities end. Unlike 21 years ago the Canucks are the higher seed and get two of the next three at home. Unlike 21 years ago, the Canucks scored two or more goals in every game in the series heading into game 5. Unlike 21 years ago, there was no debate about who would start each game in net.

This year’s Canucks are down to their final chips. They’re staring at the dealer holding a king to their 6 and 5.  There’s no choice but to double down and go for broke for a shot at playing one more hand.

I can haz Sportsnet voiceover job now please?

Seriously though, what the hell is Willie Desjardins doing? He’s trying to goad the Flames into chasing the Canucks in the offensive zone when that has never been their style. They sit back and wait for you to shoot at them, then they take the puck, drive into the zone, hold it in deep and make it a hell of a task to get it out. The Canucks are doing the equivalent of chasing cards, hoping that if they just keep making the same bets over and over again, the deck (or shoe, if you like 3+ deck blackjack) will eventually turn and put them back in the positive.

Continue reading The Playoff Beard Diary: Day 9 – Blackjack does not happen very often

Episode 61: Round One Chatter

After unanimously anointing the Vancouver Canucks as round two participants in the last podcast — thereby sending the Calgary Flames into the wasteland of central Alberta golf courses — Russell and Jason break down the seven remaining series.

• Shoddy math
• Next World by the Orchid Highway
• Arbuthnit? Arbuthnet? Arbuth… Russell, anyway
• The Seven Deadly Sins
• Montreal Canadiens versus Ottawa Senators
• A little playoff trivia fo’ ya
• New York Islanders vs Washington Capitals
• Tampa Bay Lightning vs Detroit Red Wings
• New York Rangers vs Pittsburgh Penguins
• Nashville Predators vs Chicago Blackhawks
• Jason & Russell make it interesting
• Anaheim Ducks vs Winnipeg Jets
• St Louis Blues vs Minnesota Wild
• Bonus fantasy Anaheim vs Minny, StL vs Jets content
• Russell stopped listening a while ago
• William Tell Overture by Russell ArbuthNOT
• William Tell Overture by random symphony orchestra
• Thanks for listening

Don't like our choices? Fill out this bad boy your bad self!
Don’t like our choices? Fill out this bad boy your bad self!

Episode 60 – Canucks vs Flames

It’s playoff time, so we put on our tin foil hats and go a-prognosticatin’. This episode is just Vancouver versus Calgary. We predict a Canucks win. What a shocker.

• Intro
• Raunchy Harmonica by Harpdog Brown
• Compound nouns
• Are you trapped in your car?
• Cream cheese
• Canucks v Flames
• Shaming Russell Arbuthnot
• The Conjugation of Radim Vrbata
• Thar be decent hockey in this here league, arrr
• Canucks favoured
• How can the Flames not miss Giordano?
• Get yer statstats out
• Official predictions
• Challenge extended
• No Money in the Till by Harpdog Brown

Dan Hamhuis and Eddie Lack watch on as the Calgary Flames steal game one. Jeff Vinnick photo cribbed from the interweb.
Dan Hamhuis and Eddie Lack watch on as the Calgary Flames steal game one. Jeff Vinnick photo cribbed from the interweb.

The Playoff Beard Diary: Day 3 – Self-congratulation amidst the self-flagellation

Pucked in the Head is proud to welcome Richard Davalos (@QuakesFan84) and his Playoff Beard Diary. For those growing facial hair, we salute you!

When it comes to watching Canucks playoff hockey, there is no difference between self-congratulation and self-flagellation. The first five minutes of the game are all “whoo GO CANUCKS GO!” and the final five minutes are “I’m not sure how much of this I can take,” *Calgary scores*, “Why do I put myself through this?”

It’s good to be watching playoff hockey and experiencing impotent frustration again. Feelings of wanting to be alone for a while after a loss, where would I be without you? Happier? Ehhh, happiness is overrated.

Regarding Game 1 – I would like to point out one thing from my Canucks-Flames series preview.

The team that makes the least number of defensive mistakes will win this series.

Yell at Luca Sbisa all you want, it’s completely off base. Yannick Weber was the one who decided that the best way to clear the puck from the defensive zone was up the middle, hanging Sbisa out to dry defending a spontaneous 3-on-1. There’s even less for a fan to do in that situation, other than hope that Eddie Lack makes the save. Pick your poison, Canucks fans: defensive issues or goaltending issues. One is easier to fix, provided you don’t hand a major source of it a three-year deal with an AAV of $3.6 million.

Around the League

St. Louis does it again. Is there really any other team with a bigger case of the playoff yips the last ten years than the Blues? They are 8-18 in their last five playoff appearances (including this year) and they’ve been swept twice. For a team in its prime, St Loo is underachieving at a level that could see coach Hitchcock fired outright, or at the very least sitting squarely on a scaldingly hot seat. There’s the bad luck of running into a buzzsaw every year, and this is not that. With Kevin Shattenkirk presumably back at 100%, there’s no excuse.

No suspension for PK Subban after his hack at Mark Stone’s wrist, resulting in a microfracture and putting the Calder candidate’s availability for Game Two and beyond up in the air. I was satisfied with the original five-minute major given to Subban for the infraction, but was iffy on whether it deserved a game misconduct since it was not as hard of a slash as it could have been. Then again, that’s like saying, “getting shot once is not as bad as getting shot four or five times”. I wouldn’t want to take a hack to the wrist at any strength. If the NHL is serious about removing dirty play from the game, the five-and-a-game call for even potentially injurious hits need to be doled out regularly. Suspend the infraction, not the injury.

Any fears of Anaheim getting upset by Winnipeg should have greatly diminished after Game One. Anaheim was the faster, deeper, stronger team, and the Jets looked completely sluggish in the third period. It also doesn’t help that the Jets’ captain took out Ondrej Pavelec in the pregame skate, undoubtedly affecting the Czech goalie’s mindset in the opening minutes. Regardless, the final stanza of that game was all Anaheim, and Winnipeg was just holding on for dear life. A repeat performance in Game Two and the atmosphere back at MTS for Game Three won’t be sufficient to boost the shallow Jets back into the series.

Predictions

@ Montreal 4, Ottawa 2

@ Washington 3, NY Islanders 2

Chicago 2, Nashville 0

@ Vancouver 3, Calgary 1

Beard Update

65+ hours worth of growth right here. This is bad and I do feel bad.
65+ hours worth of growth right here. This is bad and I do feel bad.