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.
• 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
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 the two. 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 is 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 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, its 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 in 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, provied you don’t hand a major source of it a 3 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 10 years than the Blues? They are 8-18 in their last 5 playoff appearances (including this year) and they’ve been swept twice. For a team in its prime, it is underacheiving at a level that could see coach Hitchcock fired outright if not 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 candiate’s availability for games 2 and beyond in the air. I was satisfied with the original 5 minute major given to Subban for the infraction, but I 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, thats like saying “getting shot once is not as bad as getting shot 4 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 5-and-a-game call for even *potentially* injurious dirty 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 1. Anaheim was the faster, deeper, stronger team, and the Jets looked completely sluggish in the 3rd period. It also doesn’t help when the Jets’ captain took out goalie Ondrej Pavelec in the pregame skate, which undoubtedly affected the Czech netminder’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 2 and the atmosphere back at MTS for Game 3 won’t be sufficent to boost the shallow Jets back into the series.
Pucked in the Head is proud to welcome Richard Davalos (@QuakesFan84) and his Playoff Beard Diary. For those about to grow facial hair, we salute you!
It’s NHL playoff time, and that means it’s playoff beard time!
The playoff beard is the primary tradition come playoff time in the NHL for players, but over the last 15 years, the beard-growing has caught on with fans who now do not shave until their team is eliminated. The refusal to shave is a tradition started in the 1980s by the New York Islanders. Those unholy, talented bastards didn’t shave until they were eliminated or won the Stanley Cup, whichever came first. The only team since the Islanders to win the Cup without partaking in the superstitious tradition was the 1994 New York Rangers, who refused to participate in any tradition started by the rival Islanders. (Sorry, Canucks fans, but we can’t just pretend it didn’t happen.) I love this tradition beyond measure, because it’s an annual reminder that I cannot grow any sort of facial hair. Hair grows faster on my nipples than it does on my face. THIS IS A BAD AND EMBARRASSING THING AND YOU’RE WELCOME FOR THE VISUAL.
When I last wrote a Playoff Beard Diary way back in 2012, the Canucks got run out of their first round series in 5 games. NHL owners then decided that they couldn’t stop throwing money at players and locked them out. In retaliation, I boycotted the NHL for two full years; a #RallyBoycott, if you will. My #RallyBoycott clearly impacted the Canucks rather heavily and they did not win a single playoff game during the #RallyBoycott. First they were swept by the dirty, rotten, stinkin’ no-good San Jose Sharks, then they went and joined my protest — they refused to take part in the post-season last year at all!
Nothing of value was missed. Now that the #RallyBoycott is over, the Canucks are in the playoffs again! I guarantee they will win infinitely more playoff games this playoff run than they did in the entire time I refused to watch NHL “action”. Enough about my undeniable powers of witchcraft and sorcery, let’s get to the games.
(Side note: WTF is this new playoff format? I feel like the Denslow Cup Bracket is easier to explain. Could Calgary really get home ice in the second round despite being the overall 8th seed out west? This is the biggest bullshit of all bullshits.)
(M1) New York Rangers v. (WC2) Pittsburgh Penguins The Penguins scraped into the playoffs despite Crosby-Malkin-Fleury being the three biggest bums on the planet. I mean, seriously, Sidney, you let Jamie Behn beat you in a scoring race? What a chu. The Rangers went on a massive run to the Presidents’ Trophy despite losing Henrik Lundqvist for an extended period of time. Thank you, Alain Vigneault. AV is, like, the king of Presidents’ Trophies now. NBC has to be happy about this playoff matchup. Every game is guaranteed to receive top billing by the American TV rightsholder.
My heart says: Rangers in 5.
My head says: Rangers in 6.
(A1) Montreal Canadiens v. (WC1) Ottawa Senators White Rock, BC native Andrew Hammond went from being a below-average AHL goalie to the second coming of Jacques fricking Plante. We’ll find out, I’m sure, that there’s some sort of red pill – blue pill scenario playing out here. Lawrence Fishburne, tell us true, now… Les Habitants are riding a Price that is very Right. (Editor’s note: GROAN.) Carey is far and away the best Canadian goaltender in the world right now. Rogers has to be happy that in the first year of their massive deal, they get five Canadian teams in the playoffs. Now about those terrible voiceovers for intros…
My heart says: Senators in 7
My head says: Canadiens in 6
(A2) Tampa Bay Lightning v. (A3) Detroit Red Wings Tampa just could not keep pace with Montreal in the final two weeks of the season. The Red Wings keep their two-decade-plus streak of making the playoffs alive, but the margin of error is shrinking. The Lightning get a very favourable matchup in the first round with a depleted Detroit squad. Stevie Y won’t be quite so beloved in Motown if he keeps this up.
My heart says: Lightning in 4
My head says: Lightning in 5
(M2) Washington Capitals v. (M3) New York Islanders The Islanders were once in position to win the Metropolitan Division, but proceeded to fart away that possibility and went so far as to lose home ice in the first round. (Editor’s note: So THAT’s what the smell at Nassau Coliseum was…) The Capitals ground out a number of wins on the back of the Great 8 and look to erase the memories of recent failures. This should be quite an entertaining matchup that’s heavy on the offense.
My heart says: Islanders in 6
My head says: Capitals in 7.
(P1) Anaheim Ducks v. (WC2) Winnipeg Jets Anaheim continues to overcome barely-existent shortfalls in net and has top billing in the West for as long as they’re alive. Winnipeg is also overcoming goaltending issues and they have shown they can win without major names in the lineup, be it from injury or suspension. Please, #SoCalSucks, come true this year.
My heart says: Jets in 6
My head says: Ducks in 5
(C1) St. Louis Blues v. (WC1) Minnesota Wild The Blues won the division nobody wanted, powering through a weak spot in early March and overtaking Nashville in the final week. Minnesota has been absolutely lights-out since acquiring Devan Dubnyk, riding him hard to their own once-unlikely playoff spot. (Editor’s note: Heh heh. #HockeyPorn.) How much more does Dubnyk have left in him this season?
My heart says: Blues in 6
My head says: Wild in 7
(C2) Nashville Predators v. (C3) Chicago Blackhawks Over the final ten weeks of the season, the Nashville Predators went from unstoppable juggernaut to invisible, milquetoast enigma. The Chicago Blackhawks were doing okay without an injured Patrick Kane for a while, then reality hit. Nashville and Chicago enter the playoffs on six- and four-game losing streaks, respectively. Someone has to win this series. (Editor’s note: Or DO they? The format this year is, like, weird, dude.)
My heart says: Predators in 6
My head says: Blackhawks in 5
(P2) Vancouver Canucks v. (P3) Calgary Flames The overall 8-seed Calgary Flames look to rekindle a rivalry that has been mostly dormant for the better part of a decade. The Vancouver Canucks appear to be worldbeaters one day, and the Worst. Team. Ever. the very next day. The team that makes the least number of defensive mistakes will win this series. Advantage: nobody.
My heart says: Canucks in 6
My head says: Canucks in 7
Premature 2nd round picks… and so on
Rangers over Capitals in 5
Lightning over Canadiens in 6
Ducks over Canucks in 6
Wild over Blackhawks in 7
Lightning over Rangers in 7
Wild over Ducks in 6
Stanley Cup Final
Tampa Bay over Minnesota in 7
Conn Smythe: Steven Stamkos
@ Montreal 4, Ottawa 2
@ Washington 5, NY Islanders 3
Chicago 3, @ Nashville 1
@ Vancouver 2, Calgary 1
Matt Ustaski, pinball wizard
Matt Ustaski of the Wisconsin Badgers scored what is likely the strangest goal of his collegiate career on Friday, potting one from 190 feet. Sure, teams score empty netters all the time, but the Matt O’Connor was still on the ice for the Boston Terriers at the time. The BU keeper skated out to start a counter-attack as the Badgers made a defensive change, but his pass careened off of defenseman Brien Diffley and into his own net.
It was very nearly UW’s biggest win of the year — they’ve only won twice in fourteen games — as Ustaski’s goal gave the Badgers a 3-1 lead with less than three minutes to play against the #2 ranked Terriers. It wasn’t to be, however. BU would score twice with O’Connor on the bench, including the tying goal with 2.2 seconds left, and would eventually win via the dreaded shootout.
After a six-game road swing that saw the Abbotsford Heat play .500 hockey, they return to the AESC in the Valley to host the dirty rotten stinkin’ no-good Rockford Ice Hogs. The games mark the chance for local fans to get their first look at Calgary Flames first-round pick Morgan Klimchuk, who scored 74 points in 57 games with the Regina Pats in junior this year, and Collin Valcourt, an undrafted player who had 72 points as an overaged WHL player with Saskatoon and Prince Albert.
Abbotsford won both games in Rockford earlier in the season, winning 4-2 and 4-3 in OT; recently, however, the Ice Hogs have been on something of a tear, moving from non-playoff contention two months ago into seventh place in the West.
The Heat currently sit in fifth in the Western Conference; if the post-season started today they’d match up with the fourth-place Chicago Wolves, AHL affiliate of the St Louis Blues.
Abbotsford has back-to-back games against the Chicago Blackhawks farm team tonight and tomorrow, followed by a Friday/Sunday doubleheader against the baby Edmonton Oilers from Oklahoma City. They’ll finish the season with three games in three nights the following weekend before opening the 2014 AHL playoffs.
I’m totally stealing most of this information from the Abbotsford Heat website, but everything above is at least paraphrased. In honour of some of my writing students grappling with citation and plagiarism, the following sentence is word-for-word ripped from www.abbotsfordheat.com: Max Reinhart (2-5-7), Derek Smith (0-6-6), and Ben Street (4-4-8) are all riding five game point streaks into this weekend.
The Abbotsford Heat beat the Hamilton Bulldogs by a couple of field goals on Friday night, taking the first of back-to-back weekend games 6–0 in front of an appreciative crowd at the AESC. Blair Jones scored twice in his first game back from injury, while Corban Knight got off the schneid with a two-goal, three-point performance of his own after collecting just two assists in his previous nine games. The Heat went 2-for-5 with the man advantage, and obviously had a perfect night on the penalty kill.
The Utica Comets took consecutive overtime wins off the Abbotsford Heat this past weekend. Sadly I don’t have time to write anything pithy about the Heat’s current scoring woes (16 goals during three wins and seven losses in 2014), or Utica’s recent dominance in head-to-head matchups (six losses in a row and counting).
If there were time, it would be easy to point to Heat goaltender Joey MacDonald’s comical giveaway behind his own net on the tying goal late in the game, or to defenseman Chris Breen’s stick snapping in half at the opposition blueline, directly leading to Benn Ferriero’s game-winning goal.
But there isn’t. So after the jump, I’ll just share my Heat – Comets photo gallery.
The Abbotsford Heat spanked the Iowa Wild 6–2 on Wednesday. They skated, they hit, they looked like they wanted to win, and they scored a couple of lucky goals to boot. Joni Ortio made several impressive saves en route to his twelfth win of the season, and Ben Street scored a pair to bring his AHL season total to 16 goals in 22 games.
The following night, the home side played decidedly less inspired hockey, and Joey MacDonald fought the puck on two questionable goals and several iffy rebounds. The Heat deservedly hit the L column to end the homestand with a 4–2 loss.
At 17-6-1, the Abbotsford Heat sit atop the American Hockey League standings. Two of those losses came in back-to-back home defeats to the league-worst Utica Comets last weekend, so it’s fair to say the home team will turn up the heat on West Division rivals the San Antonio Rampage on December 6 & 7.
Friday is the annual Teddy Bear Toss, so here’s hoping a spirited bunch show up to rain stuffed animal goodness upon the ice. (Bring a new, unwrapped bear to the rink, and toss it over the boards when the Heat score their first goal of the night. All toys are gifted to the Abbotsford Christmas Bureau, an organization that helped more than 3,500 children during the holidays last year.)
Perhaps that goal will be scored by Ben Street, this week named the AHL Player of the Month for November 2013. Street scored 11 goals and added 8 assists in 15 games, a big reason the Heat rattled off a franchise record 12 wins in the month.
As for the opposition this weekend, local hockey fans will likely recognize Ryan Whitney, a 10-year veteran of NHL action with the Penguins, Oilers, and Ducks. Also of note: Steve Pinizzotto, who had a cup of coffee with the Vancouver Canucks after the lockout.
The Abbotsford Heat find themselves worrying about the Vancouver Canucks affiliate Utica Comets.
They don’t need to concern themselves with a 3–2 decision to the lowly Comets on Friday night. Even after the loss, the Heat have won eight of their last ten games and sit in first overall in the AHL standings. The Comets, for their part, picked up just their fifth win of the year, and would not have done so without some serious heroics on the part of their goaltender. Under siege most of the night — including a third period that saw the Heat outshoot the Comets 13–2 — Joe Cannata made 35 saves for unanimous first star honours.
No, the Heat this season haven’t had to wring hands as they’ve done in the past about the number of pucks hitting the backs of the net. What they have worried about, though, is the ever-dwindling number of bums in seats at the Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre.