Longtime followers of Pucked in the Head might remember that we started out as a podcast called Bernier is a Turd. That was back when Steve Bernier was an overpaid roster spot holder for the Vancouver Canucks. We frequently complained that Mr Turd was a sorry excuse for a hockey forward, and accused him of being a garbage goalmonger of the very worst sort. “He can only score if he’s standing in the crease,” we lamented, “and only then, with no goaltender between him and the goal line.”
Turns out we were half wrong.
Bernier now plies his trade in the American Hockey League, for the New York Islanders affiliate Bridgeport Sound Tigers. As the Hartford Wolf Pack pressed to tie a 3-2 game late in the third period, our man Steve lay down, angling his shin pads just so, to block a point shot from Ryan Graves. The puck bounced, ricocheted, rebounded, even caromed the length of the ice into the Hartford net. There was indeed no goaltender, as the Pack had opted for an extra attacker. But we admit — Bernier can, indeed, hit the net from outside the crease.
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.
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
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.
Whatever playoff aspirations still existed in the Vancouver Canucks dressing room — misguided, maybe, but they were there — must have taken a serious thumping during the third period of last night’s 7-4 loss to the lowly, John Tavares-less New York Islanders.
Up 3-0 going into the final 20 minutes of the game, the Canucks managed to give up a converted touchdown in a single period for the first time since a kid named Wayne Gretzky swaggered into Vancouver with the dynastic Edmonton Oilers. And, as Ryan Kesler said of the present-day Islanders after the game, “let’s face it, [New York] is not one of the top teams in the NHL. We had a three-nothing lead to start the third. This just can’t happen.”
Sadly, not only can it go down, Mr Kesler, but it did happen. On home ice. During the stretch run. Less than a week after the GM traded away a future Hall of Fame goaltender.
In the first two periods, the Isles had just nine shots on goal. Fast forward twenty minutes, and they had nearly that many goals.
Sure, there were positives. Henrik Sedin got a lucky bounce off an Islander defenceman — lucky bounces have been few and far between for the Canucks of late, but it marked the first goal in 23 games for the captain. Alex Burrows didn’t get off the gorilla-choking, gut-twisting schneid he’s been riding all season, but he did get awarded an apple on Ryan Kesler’s 22nd goal of the year. Replays show Burrows gave a swing and a miss when Kevin Bieksa’s shot from the slot pinged off the post, but when Kesler put it home, the scorekeepers gave Burr the phantom assist for his 300th career NHL point.
But let’s not kid anyone. There are no moral victories in a game that goes that far south that quickly. Less than five minutes of gutless, idiot play in the third period undid 40 minutes of solid two-way hockey. Dumb penalties from Jensen, Bieksa and Sestito translated into a tie game within minutes of the third period puck drop. Add a couple that Lack would like to have back, and the Isles put a pick-six on the board before the third was halfway done.
The Canucks collapse, though, wasn’t half as scary as what awaited Eddie Lack in the dressing room.
Kenny Miller scored twice wearing the captain’s armband, while newcomers Pedro Morales and Sebastián Fernández hit the back of the net in spectacular fashion.
The Red Bulls’ only marker came in stoppage time at the end of the match, as keeper David Ousted was left alone to fend for a long cross — he misjudged his punch, and late substitution Bradley Wright-Phillips took full advantage with a cagey header.
I was challenged by Whitecaps FC physiotherapist Graeme Poole to Take a Bite out of the Big Apple in a #CapsNomination earlier this week. Needless to say, instead of putting together a half-arsed, iPhone filmed response tout de suite, I took four days to mine the interweb for cheesy sound effects and put together a half-arsed, iPhone-filmed response. FX make all the difference, don’t you think?
Remember, Whitecaps FC go into the 2014 season with a substantially retooled roster — gone are the underperforming Daigo Kobayashi and the dirty, rotten, stinkin’ traitor Camilo, and in are promising attacking midfielders Matías Laba and Pedro Morales. There are numerous young players looking to stamp their cleats upon this team, and it’s new bench boss Carl Robinson‘s job to get them on the pitch a little more often than his predecessor did.
All the while, this team is looking to defend its fourth Cascadia Cup (more on that here from the ever-eloquent Chris Withers), and challenge for its first-ever Canadian Championship trophy against a massively restocked Toronto FC side (soccer poet Russell Arbuthnot is on tap for some of this action).
The Vancouver Whitecaps pulled a rare animal out of their hat this weekend — a road victory. After outplaying and outchancing opponents in several draws (and even a few losses) over the past few weeks, the boys in blue and white stole a 2-1 win in a contest they had no business winning.
Karma dictated the Caps had to come out on top of a decision like this sooner or later. Despite riding a four-game unbeaten streak into the match, they hadn’t received all the points they had deserved. Wednesday’s heartbreaking draw against Montreal lost the Whitecaps their first Voyageurs Cup. They had run the show for 85 minutes, hitting the woodwork twice and putting several shots just wide. By all accounts they could have scored a half-dozen against the Impact but only gave Craig MacEwan two opportunities to say “it’s in the back of the net!”
The previous game was another 2-2 draw, this time against Portland. The Caps scored two marvellous goals, but the Timbers played with twelve men — unfortunately the twelfth one carried a whistle and wore a referee’s jersey. While that may seem unfair, both goals for the visitors were contestable. The tying goal in particular was quite stinky, as Jose Valencia clearly used both arms to corral a hail-mary pass in the Vancouver box before depositing it behind Brad Knighton.
So yeah, gutting out a win when the other guys probably deserved it? Karmic payback against all those other teams that have nicked points from the Caps earlier in the year.
Heavyweights En Masse
The last four Stanley Cup champs are still alive in the second round. If they all move on to the final four, we hockey fans are in for a treat — all of them are heavyweights looking to regain the belt. The LA Kings (2012) & Boston Bruins (2011) are both bruisingly big, grinding forces that aim to win low-scoring games by punishing opposing blueliners and squeezing the creativity out of opposition forwards. The Chicago Blackhawks (2010) and Pittsburgh Penguins (2009) are both deep and skilled, and have scoring threats up and down their lineups. We at Pucked in the Head are cheering for the latter pair to be the last two teams standing, but frankly any matchup from these four teams will make for a damned entertaining final.
In an age of hyper marketing, intense competition and tightly controlled PR, it’s amazing that truly horrible ideas can still make it past the brainstorming stage. Whether it’s the nightmare of design by committee or just a conflagration of mediocre talents pulling the wool over the eyes of out of touch rich CEOs, we occasionally see awful designs rolled out in an underwhelming explosion of anticlimax. Today, we analyze the most recent NHL obscenity with the introduction of a new Seven Things series: Somebody Approved This.
Note: This fugly spittoon shirt was originally leaked — or is that leaked upon? — as a proposed third jersey in 2011-12. We wrote it up then as the ugliest thing to come out of Long Island, and remember these clowns wore the teal and orange fishermen a while back. Sadly the lockout didn’t allow Charles Wang and his wandering minstrels of woe quite enough time to rejig the damned thing. Consequently, Isles fans are being forced to watch not only a crappy team, but a crappy team in disgusting uniforms.