Fans in Vancouver are predictably blasé about the NHL playoffs; the Canucks have missed the post-season for the first time since 2008, and YVR hockey fans aren’t exactly renowned for loving the game so much as their team. (Case in point: the Abbotsford Heat are shutting up shop at the conclusion of their playoff run after years of decreasing returns in the Valley. People out thisaway are so scared of Calgary Flames cooties they’ve refused to see professional puck for $20.)
We at Pucked in the Head believe in celebrating the game, even when our local team comes up lame. Here are Jason’s picks for this year’s post-season. He’s so concussed by the ascension of Zack Kassian and the retirements of Teemu Selanne and Ryan Smythe — not to mention the bizarre first-round matchups determined by the NHL’s new wild card system — that he’s thumbing for Stanley Cup supremacy… the San Jose Sharks (!?!?!?!)
Props to rookie goaltender Reto Berra, who picked up a win in his very first NHL start, in overtime over the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks no less. He made 42 saves on 44 shots — that’s a .955 save percentage, earned against the likes of Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews.
Not too shabby, Mr Berra. Keep that up, and something tells me this Abbotsford Heat paint job might need a flaming C or two thereupon.
Because it’s the Cup, I will watch Glen Healy and PJ Stock make unmitigated fools of themselves using only their words.
Because it’s the Cup, I will watch countless people scream blue murder about whatever comes out of Don Cherry’s mouth.
Because it’s the Cup, I will watch Tukka Rask continue his impressive climb out of Tim Thomas’ borderline racist, definitely bizarre shadow.
Because it’s the Cup, I will watch Corey Crawford continue his impressive climb out of Antti Niemi’s I-can’t-make-an-adjectival-joke-here-because-I-still-feel-like-“Antti-who?” shadow.
Because it’s the Cup, I will watch Marian Hossa play like a frickin’ beast.
Because it’s the Cup, I will watch Zdeno Chara play as a frickin’ beast.
Because it’s the Cup, I will watch Jaromir Jagr make his first Stanley Cup Final appearance in 21 years.
Because it’s the Cup, I will watch Dave Bolland — oh wait, no I won’t, because he pulled a disappearing act this post-season.
Because it’s the Cup, I will watch Jonathan Toews attempt to become just the second player, after Wayne Gretzky, to captain two championship teams before turning 25. Yes, Captain Serious was less than four years old the last time Jagr hit the NHL final round.
Because it’s the Cup, I will applaud these two teams even though they are roundly despised by pretty much every hockey fan in Vancouver.
Because it’s the Cup, I will hope and pray that the Hawks manage to score it up against the Bruins, because we as fans desperately need fast, creative hockey — not plodding, grind-it-out 1-0 yawnfests.
Because it’s the Cup, I will predict that the series winner will be scored by Brian Bickell in game 7 at the United Center.
At the Abbotsford Heat game last night, I got some great shots (and some not so marvellous pictures, too, but that’s the way she goes). Here’s something a little different. Check out this pic of Brad Mills drawing a penalty shot in the second period. Then look below to see a shot by Heat photographer Clint Trahan of the exact same moment in the game — there’s me photobombing the shot behind Danny Taylor in the Abbotsford net.
The Rockford Ice Hogs didn’t just beat the Abbotsford Heat on Friday night. They lined up the nails all neat-like, threw what was left of the Heat’s playoff hopes in the coffin, and started hammering away.
The home side tossed 35 shots at Ice Hogs goaltender Henrik Karlsson, but could only beat him twice. Coming the other way, Abbotsford goaltenders Barry Brust and Danny Taylor combined for just 21 saves on 26 shots. Do the math and you’ve got a 5-2 win for the visitors.
Coming into the game, the Heat sat one spot out of the playoff picture with 11 games remaining. That wouldn’t be so worrying if the teams around them didn’t have five games in hand. At this point in the season, with offensive threats like Sven Bärtschi, Ben Street and Max Reinhart all healthy, they just can’t spend all night making opposing goaltenders look good. Those other teams have a possible 10 extra points up for grabs with those additional games, so the chances of making the post-season start to look very slim indeed unless the Heat run the table. With the Ice Hogs win Friday, these teams swapped positions: the Heat now sit in 11th place in the Western Conference, while Rockford moves up to ninth.
The Chicago Wolves won back-to-back games against the Abbotsford Heat this weekend, including a 1-0 shutout win on Saturday night. Here’s a collection of images from that contest, for your ogling pleasure. All photos by Jason Kurylo for Pucked in the Head.
Pucked in the Head is happy to have the one and only Kennedy Goodkey guest posting for us this evening. Please hold your applause until the end of the introductory paragraph. Mr Goodkey has joined us for a couple of podcast episodes in the past, most notably in Top 7 Canucks Nicknames, Part I & Part II.
This marks the first time he has trekked up the road to an Abbotsford Heat AHL game, and it happened to be on the very day that NHL hockey was officially announced to be coming back from the lockout. He decided to record a running commentary of the evening as he went, warts and all. By ‘running commentary’, I mean just that. He goes from folk rock to sports aha-moments to popcorn in, dude, mere seconds. And by ‘warts and all’, I mean ‘complete with double spaces after periods, like some retired receptionist who still thinks Robert Goulet is just the dreamiest. I can say that because I am, in fact, Robert Goulet.
Not to take anything away from Kennedy’s usage of the word ‘antipodal’ — which is awesome, by the way, my favourite part is when he writes, “I must be some kind of elitist hockey-jerk.” But don’t let me spoil everything for you. Have a gander after the jump, and enjoy! Just remember that Mr Goodkey’s opinions are entirely his own, and with the exception of his loathing for the song Cotton-Eyed Joe, they do not reflect the deep, inner love and respect for all human life levels of hockey that Chris Withers and I hold dear.
— Jason Kurylo, who is, like, totally bogarting Kennedy’s opening
The NHL’s justice system is broken. It’s gotten so bad that a lengthy suspension to a career predator who may have ended the season of a superstar is seen as laughable because of the suspensions that have gone before (or in the case of Shea Weber, the ones that have not gone before). Despite much acclaim early in the season, Brendan Shanahan has now clearly shown that, when the games really matter, he’s no better at meting out punishment than his predecessor, Colin “My Son Plays for the Bruins So I Won’t Suspend Bruins and Miraculously They Just Won the Cup How About That” Campbell. If the NHL wants to regain any measure of credibility it needs to look to (and I’m holding my nose as I type this) the Conservative Party of Canada. It needs to establish clear and consistent rules (not guidelines, rules) for what constitutes a suspension and the length of that suspension. It needs to establish mandatory minimums.