Should they win many things? Probably. Manager Carl Robinson has done a masterful job of assembling a deep, talented roster. Will they? If they go on the attack as relentlessly as they did Sunday, quite possibly. This day, though, they died by the sword. The Caps, known for a deadly counterattack last year, carried much of the play on day one, but gave up multiple goals on the break to fall 3-2 to the dreaded Surrender Monkeys from Montreal.
As Carl Robinson said in the post-game presser, “We gifted Montreal these three points, if we’re to give an honest assessment.”
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.
Using techniques developed by my wife’s Mayan ancestors, including sacrificing several bulls under this week’s blood moon, I have determined beyond a reasonable doubt who will win the 2014 Stanley Cup. Unless the sun implodes and Stephen Harper finally reveals that he is now, and always has been, an Amway representative, the San Jose Sharks will leave greasy playoff beard residue on Lord Stanley’s mug.
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.
Hear the gnashing of teeth. See the flailing of arms. Feel the tension and taste the tears, because playoff hockey is here.
Mere days into the NHL’s first round, and we’ve already seen blowouts — the Sidless Penguins handed John Tavares every ass on the New York Islander roster in game one. We’ve been treated to overtime gaffes — I’m looking at you, Jonathan Quick, you bizarre, talented bastard, you. Controversy: Eric Gryba got an unwarranted two-game suspension after Lars Eller’s nose hit the ice. Sadly, Brendan Shanahan’s ruling — see the video below — was only half as atrocious as the Ottawa Sun’s front page coverage of the incident. (Even Sun sports journalist Bruce Garrioch was embarrassed, going to lengths to explain that editors, not writers, choose the pictures and headlines.) And out west, Roberto Luongo played his face off in a surprise start for the listless Vancouver Canucks. No one seems to know what ails the goaltender regent, Corey Schneider, but who mans the crease will only be a talking point if Vancouver manages more than a goal a game against the Sharks.
Perhaps the most impressive story so far this playoff actually stretches beyond the boundaries of the NHL. On the very day that the Toronto Maple Leafs played their first playoff game in nearly a decade, the Leafs, Toronto Blue Jays and Toronto FC were collectively outscored 20-2 by the Boston Bruins, Boston Red Sox and Montreal Impact respectively. It seems nothing can go right in Hogtown these days — Rob Ford is still the mayor, for goodness’ sake.
Okay, okay: politics notwithstanding, in a city that proclaims itself the Centre of the Universe, they sure as shootin’ aren’t doing much to impress in the world of sports. Until the Argonauts take the field to defend their Grey Cup title later this summer, the only thing T-dot has to cheer for is the Marlies. The Baby Leafs swept the Rochester Americans in the AHL Calder Cup playoffs, and await the winners of the other three Western Conference quarterfinals before second round reseeding. Go (baby) Leafs go, I suppose.
Here’s ol’ Shanny’s ruling, in which he mysteriously states that Gryba made Eller’s head the principal point of contact. (Compare with PK Subban’s hit on Chris Neil earlier in the game — in which red-jerseyed shoulder indeed smucks upon white-helmeted head — as giffed by @Eyeonhockey.)
The frenzy that is the first round of the NHL playoffs is upon us — and if the first night is any indication, the theme is defense, defense, snore… I mean, defense. I mean, really. The last time we came out of a lockout, hockey was exciting and fast-moving. This lockout has punctuated the return of the dead puck era, where neutral zone traps and left wing locks are de rigeur. Out of six teams playing Tuesday night, only the Anaheim Ducks managed to score more than one goal in regulation time. All hail Teemu Selanne and his wrist shot of doom!
If tonight’s games between the Canucks & Sharks and the Pens and Isles end 2-1 in OT, can we just fast forward to the final and be done with it?
EA Sports has used NHL 13 to prognosticate the NHL playoff results, and they’ve come up with the New York Rangers as a surprise winner of Lord Stanley’s mug over Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks in the final. Our man Jake Hall decided to sim it up as well, and he got a decidedly different result:
by Jake Hall
For fans of the Vancouver Canucks, the “official” EA Sports sim wasn’t pretty. It involved a second round sweep at the hands of the Kings — a sweep! What is this, 2012? Needless to say, I was hoping for a different outcome when I ran the 2013 playoffs through my humble PS3 in the Hall household.
Chris & Jason discuss the midseason surprises of the shortened 2013 NHL season, and wonder if the window has perhaps shut early on the Vancouver Canucks wündercore assembled by Mike Gillis & predecessors Brian Burke & Dave Nonis. They also wave buh-bye to the Vancouver Giants, whose season ends without playoffs for the first time in a decade.
• Sofa Surfer Girl by the Orchid Highway
• 30 seconds of soccer talk
• Vancouver Giants season is over
• Hybrid icing / a lack of brains
• Habs & Ducks
• Chicks dig stats
• Ducks & Habs
• The Canucks are whelming Chris Withers
• Columbus just might make the playoffs
• Time for a Change by the Orchid Highway
• Thanks for Listening
In a year overshadowed by the greed and stupidity of hockey’s biggest players, let’s focus on the admirable work of less prominent, but far more important, hockey teams.
Like this one that generates thousands upon thousands of pounds of food for folks who need it most (not to mention at least that many smiles along the way!) Okay, okay, it sounds cheesy — mmmmmm, cheese — but in this case, it’s true. Five Hole for Food has quickly become one of Canada’s most inspirational charitable drives, and it encourages each and every one of us to get up off the couch and pick up a hockey stick to make the deal even sweeter.