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? 21 years ago the Vancouver Canucks were in this same exact position, down 3 games to 1 to the Calgary Flames, but thats right where the similarities end. Unlike 21 years ago the Canucks are the higher seed and get two of the next three at home starting with tonight’s game 5. Unlike 21 years ago, the Canucks scored 2 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 has 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 in 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. They want to continue ignoring the chances they get in the slot and still try for the cross ice pass through two Flames before taking a shot on net. They want to change as little as possible about what they’re doing and are expecting different results. Willie D’s idea of game-changing is pairing Derek Dorsett with the Sedins. Derek Dorsett finished game 4 on the top scoring line for the Canucks. I get the feeling that the card the Canucks are going to turn over after doubling down on 11 tonight is an ace and today’s game is just going to get out of hand. Seriously, I know I’m a better writer than whoever Sportsnet has doing their pregame “pump up” intro. You can keep your movie voiceover guy, just let me write the intros and i’ll consider not completely bashing your laughable crap for the rest of the playoffs.
Around the League
The October Devan Dubnyk returned for a night. Right when it looked like the Minnesota Wild were in prime position to completely wreck the St. Louis Blues aspirations on advancing, Dubnyk’s old ways returned and Minnesota was down 3-0 in a hurry. Now the series heads back to Missouri and the question becomes “Did Devan Dubnyk’s superhuman goaltending ability disappear just as fast as it came in?”
The Lightning and Red Wings play game 4 today, and I still have not watched a single second of that series. I’ve given every other series at least a period and this series just does not excite me. Nothing of value has been lost (except my sanity for having actually sat through every period of Canucks-Flames).
I’m calling it now. Whoever wins tonight’s game between the Islanders and Capitals will win the series. I expect the home team to hold serve in the final three games,
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.
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.
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
Pat Quinn, may he rest in peace, leaves a massive, Irish imprint upon our community, having changed the course of franchises at the professional, junior and minor levels of hockey in Vancouver. Russell and Jason discuss the big man and give him one last tip of the Pucked in the Head hat. I dig out some audio of an interview I was fortunate enough to conduct with Pat Quinn about a year before his passing. We also discuss the Canucks playoff race, in a timely, timely manner. So timely. Like, mayor of Crazy Town timeliness. Dude. Timely.
• Sofa Surfer Girl by the Orchid Highway
• Russell mails it in
• Linden, Bure, Odjick, this guy influenced a generation of Canucks
• Quinn’s hand in the Vancouver Giants
• Pat Quinn talks about Gordie Howe & Bobby Orr
• Pat Quinn memorial night at Rogers Arena
• Canucks down the stretch
• Time for a Change by the Orchid Highway
• We are professionals
Even when it comes to injuries, the Miller boys like to play a little game of oneupmanship.
Vancouver Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller has been out with a knee sprain for over a month as the team makes a strong pitch for the playoffs on the back of the affable Eddie Lack. Ligaments in that area are integral to many a professional sport, granted, but hockey goalies and slalom skiers are especially reliant upon strong, healthy knees. Recuperation needs to be tackled carefully; it’s slow and frustrating, and the potential for re-injury is high.
And while you never wish a serious hurt on a player, you’d take that knee injury 100 times out of 100 over what happened to his little brother the other day.
Drew Miller, a forward with the Red Wings, was involved in an almost literal face-off during a defensive zone puck battle against the Senators on Tuesday night. Ottawa forward Mark Stone was tied up with Detroit centre Luke Glendening; as his body twisted forward over Glendening, who was bent at the waist at the time, Stone’s trailing leg swung upward. His skate caught Miller under the visor, opening a gash from his lower cheek, across the eye to the underside of his eyebrow.
Miller immediately grabbed put his gloves to his face and raced off the ice under his own power, and required 60 stitches to his cheek and eyelid. While he was immediately concerned by the amount of blood and swelling around the eye — and good gravy, who wouldn’t be? — it appears at this early stage that the eye itself wasn’t damaged. People in the Miller family and around the hockey world are breathing a sigh of relief today. This injury could have been much, much worse.
And, good hockey playin’ lad that he is, the bastard is going to play against the Bruins tonight.
The slow motion video is downright scary to watch, especially if you have kids who play the game.
After a disappointing loss to Toronto in their season opener, the Whitecaps have reeled off three straight wins and find themselves in good shape through the first month of play. Sure, they’ve had a flair for the dramatic, earning two of the three victories in stoppage time and the other just shortly before, but it’s tough to argue with nine points in four games – a win is a win after all.
And while the results have been by and large positive (more positive than I had predicted), the process certainly hasn’t been what Carl Robinson was expecting of his squad, which is both a testament to the talent he has brought in and an indictment on their efforts thus far. Yet, over the last three weeks, a rotating cast of players has provided just enough magic to allow the Whitecaps to come out victorious. Which is a far cry from where this team was last year.
Last season we saw a team that won and lost largely due to the performance of one man. As Pedro went, the Whitecaps went. And to start the 2015 campaign, it appears that perhaps Pedro has indeed went.
Robert Earnshaw was on the pitch at BC Place for less than four minutes before he found himself on the receiving end of a brilliant touch pass from El Capitán Pedro Morales. Keeper Adam Kwarasey charged out to challenge, and Earnshaw used his first touch as a Vancouver Whitecap to chip the ball over him into the back of the net. He celebrated thusly:
It wasn’t the first time he’d scored in his first appearance with a team. Earnshaw scored in his first game with the Chicago Fire last year, and potted a pair of goals in his home debut with dirty, rotten, stinkin’ Toronto FC two seasons ago. (It should be noted that Saturday’s game-winner was Earnshaw’s first-ever at BC Place — he was held scoreless in his MLS debut two seasons ago when the Caps blanked Toronto 1-0, a game in which he started and played 85 minutes.)
At 5’8″ and just 160 pounds, he’s not likely to overpower defenders like Nat Borchers or that bloody ginger beard of his. But holy hamhocks, can this guy boot a ball into a soccer net. Earnshaw now has a dozen goals in 32 MLS appearances. That’d be a fair clip for a hockey player, but in soccer, them’s all-star numbers. Don’t just take my word for it; the MLS website, for all its warts and biases, usually gives us stats pretty straight up, and it tells us, “[Earnshaw has recorded] a hat-trick in every professional division in England, including the FA Cup and League Cup competitions as well as internationally for Wales.”
“I knew he’d get one chance,” said Coach Carl Robinson after the match, happy to steal three points in a game where his squad was badly outplayed by the opposition. “I know what Ernie can do, what kind of touch he has with the ball, so I just told him to take the chance when it came. I’m glad he did.”
Chances are the Welshman will do it again. Earnshaw now has 217 goals for clubs in England, Scotland, Israel, the US, and Canada, as well as the Welsh international side.
“It’s always exciting, especially in a debut,” Earnshaw said after the match, saying that even after 18 years of playing professionally, he’s still overwhelmed with emotion when he scores. “The feeling of when the ball hits the net, oh my God, it’s the best. The best.”
Here’s a video for your highlight-watchin’ pleasure:
It’s been a full century since Vancouver won a Stanley Cup. On March 26, 1915, the Denman Arena saw the Vancouver Millionaires, led by Fred “Cyclone” Taylor, complete a three-game sweep over the Ottawa Senators for the city’s only claim to hockey’s holy grail. One hundred years later, the Vancouver Canucks will wear their maroon tribute jerseys against the Colorado Avalanche.
The Canucks have made three trips to the finals since their NHL debut in 1970, but have come up short each time. The first was in 1982, a four-game sweep at the hands Al Arbour’s mighty New York Islanders. The second and third, in 1994 and 2011, both went to seventh and deciding games that went to the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins respectively. That leaves the 1915 champs the only ones to have the word ‘Vancouver’ inscribed into Lord Stanley’s chalice.
The Vancouver Giants end their 2014-15 season this weekend with a home-and-home against Kelowna, the top team in the Western Conference. While the Giants are out of the playoff picture thanks to a nine-game losing skid down the stretch, the Rockets have been on auto-pilot the past six weeks or so in preparation for a long playoff run.
It was a roller coaster year for the Giants, who came out of the gate flying before losing 18 of 24 games under Troy G Ward. Replacement coach Claude Noel seemed to buoy the team nicely — a new bench boss often has an invigorating effect — and with four weeks left in the year they’d managed to scrape themselves into a playoff spot.
“Now hold on a second, Russell! That doesn’t make any sense! How can a win not be a win?” Lend me your attention for a moment fine reader and I’ll be happy to explain.
On March 14, we saw the Vancouver Whitecaps escape Toyota Park with a 1-0 result over the Chicago Fire. I watched this game while a wave of frustration bombarded me with each squandered scoring opportunity.
Sure, the Whitecaps notched their first triumph of the infantile MLS season this weekend. I’d suggest that many of you were in fact quite happy to see the Whitecaps find the victory in Chicago on Saturday. It’s not out of the question that you were placated by the fact that the Whitecaps FC had never scored a goal at Toyota Park. And many of you probably defaulted to using the aforementioned “a win is a win” cliché as some type of reasoning for arriving at your satisfaction in seeing the Caps win. (I’m looking at YOU, Kurylo).