NHL Report: The Quarters

AKA the conference semi-finals, but only the NHL cares THAT much about the Conference Finals. It’s all just window dressing to get hockey fans slobbering about the Stanley Cup Final.

Don’t think I am going to go on about why it’s called “Final” as opposed to “Finals” again. I won’t as it’s too silly to be discussed. Okay? Okay. Great.

As I am writing this, I’ll do a “live” report on the Oilers-Flames series. Right now, it is 0-0 because they’re six minutes away from dropping the puck for period 1.

Now let’s check out The Quarters by taking a deep dive into a frozen pond and scope out the Eastern Conference. As expected, and I predicted – as if it’s that big of a deal it was not hockey magic like an Edmonton goal from someone else besides Connor McDavid or Leon Draisaiti – only the Hurricanes, Panthers and Lightning stand a chance of hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup. The four teams left, those are three. The other is the New York Central Park Rangers who are currently down two games to one versus the Hurricane. The Hurricane are the team I picked to win the Eastern Conference, but they must contend with a scrappy Ranger squad then the Tampa Bay Lightning. The TBL (to shorten it so I don’t have to keep typing their insipid name) are up three games to nil against the Florida Panthers. The cake is baked on that series so all that’s left is the icing.  Man I am hungry. Time to prep dinner – broiled teriyaki salmon with brussels sprouts, garlic and spinach.

Time for the Western Conference. First, we have the Avalanche versus the Blues. On paper this should be a 5 or 6 game series and still might be. The Avs are up two games to one but really got hammered at home 4-1 in game 2. They rallied big time and crushed the Blues 5-2 on St. Louis’ home ice Saturday night though. Tomorrow night is Game 4.

The keys to this series? Keeping the Blues off the power play. They are really good at scoring on the power play. They only team better this year than them are the… yep, you guessed, the Avalanche. As such, each have the same goal so to speak – keep everything 5 on 5 as much as possible. Key 2 is the same as it is on every team left – good goalie play combined with solid defense. One’s goalie can only do so much – we will get to that in a moment. Suffice to say the team that may be in danger are the Blues. They lost their number one(ish) goalie last night, Jordan Binnington when Avs forward Nazem Kadri was going after a loose puck and got shoved into Binnington by Blues player Calle Rosen. Of course, Blues fans – the blind ones – can’t see how Kadri didn’t hit Binnington on purpose but completely fail to see if Binnington had made a clean glove save and not had the puck bounce off him to sit at the front of the net this wouldn’t have happened. And, as it is St. Louis, Kadri is now getting racist death threats. How sweet of the hockey ignorant.

Time Out. I am going to go make dinner now. I’ll be back to report on Game 3 of the Oilers-Flames matchup in a while as well as continue with the Western Conference in general.

Brussels sprouts are roasting, it’s nil-nil 7 minutes into period 1.

Back to the report. I am not done with the whole Kadri brouhaha. Effectively, I just want to go on the record for two items – one, Kadri has been known to mix it up a bit too much and in fact was suspended last year during the playoffs. Two, you Blues fans who are acting like asses, look at the damn play. It clearly was not on purpose and clearly was Kadri going after a loose puck in front of the net. If you all want to really bitch about something, bitch about how your team decided the right time to pull your goalie was way too early. Goal 4 the Avalanche scored via Gabe Landeskog was declared an empty netter but it was kind of comical watching Blues goalie Ville Husso struggle to try and get back to the net to no avail.

oh Landy, you came and you scored without their goalie and it iced the game, oh Landy.

Let it be said the Avs also lost a player yesterday. Speedy defenseman Sam Girard was checked into the boards by the Blues forward Ivan Barbashov. Now if you’re thinking “hey, he sounds like he’s Russian” he certainly is, so let’s just get this out of the way to keep Avs fans frothing “gO BaCk to ruSSiA U coMmiE!” It was a clean check, just a rough one. Girard is out for the rest of the playoffs with a broken sternum. Ouch.

As for the Oilers-Flames matchup AKA “The Battle of Alberta”, you may scroll up to take notice to see how I wrote “one’s goalie can only do so much.” That particular goalie for the first tow games has been starting Oiler goalie Mike Smith. The Oilers lost Game one 9 to 6. Granted it wasn’t all his fault. He was pummeled with 10 shots in the first 6 minutes and let 3 of them into the net. As such he was pulled.

Now it’s still nil-nil at the end of Period 1, but the Oilers are the aggressors outshooting the Flames 21 to 7 at this point. Brussels Sprouts are done, the salmon is broiling, and the Oilers look like they may be cooking the Flames. There’s something poetic about that last part.

For game 2 the Oilers stuck with Smith and they won 5-3 as he stopped 37 out of 40 shots. The Calgary Flames are not going to take it easy on him whatsoever or any Oiler goalie for that matter. For Game 1 they had 42 shots. It may be tied at 1 game each right now but I cannot see how the Oilers are going to win a series when their goalie(s) have to withstand that much pressure. The Oilers can fire away too, but they are “down” 82 shots vs 68 shots through the first two games.

Food is done and delish! FYI, listening to the Flames radio broadcast via the web is pretty hilarious. Lots of “oh-ffense” and many “a-boots” plus for the first intermission you get “Flames history on this date” which was nothing but talking about the move from Atlanta 42 years ago and three coach firings. So weird.

GOOOOOOAAAAALLLL! Not sure why I am so excited. I don’t care about either team, but the Oiler Zach Hyman (AKA The Virgin) just scored for the Oilers. Maybe it’s the whole “Battle of Alberta” deal. Calgary and Edmonton are a mere 3 hours AKA a case of Labatt’s (for the passenger c’mon now) apart, don’t cha know.

Just went through the Flames playoff history. The Oilers had Gretzky so we know they won Stanley Cup after Stanley Cup. The Flames have hoisted the Stanley Cup once in 1989 with co-captain and legend Lanny McDonald.

Opah! Another GOOOOOOOAAAALLLL! The Oilers are working very hard to prove me wrong. I used OPAH because I just heard their commercial on Alberta Flames radio. It’s the largest Greek Mediterranean franchise in Canada, don’t cha know. And the Oilers just scored again, Evander Kane for the second time. It’s 3-0. I’m done with this game. OPAH! It’s now 4-0 and Kane has a flippin’ hat trick in one period. Now I have to take back my snarky comment about just McDavid and Draisaiti scoring for the Oilers. I’m also REALLY done with this game.

What else don’t cha know? My original prediction is still gold – I have the Hurricanes versus the Avalanche in the Stanley Cup Final. The Hurricane are good, but not good enough. Avalanche takes them in 7.

See you for the Stanley Cup Semis, AKA the Conference Finals.

The NHL Report at the All-Star Break

The NHL in the first ‘half’ (we are beyond the halfway point but the All-Star Break is a reasonable spot to be considered halfway), we saw the league do some good things. One, they pulled their players from participating in the Olympics. Frankly, just preventing the players from being exhausted for the stretch run it would have made sense. Protecting them from possibly being more exposed than they already are to COVID is another. Two, COVID protocols have seemed to work. There have been times when teams have had to take time off because their ranks have been decimated by the virus, but that lay-off doesn’t really seem to affect good teams. And bad teams are, by definition, bad so who fucking cares.

Regarding good teams, let’s slip on some skates and glide around with my favorite team, the Colorado Avalanche. They played Trashville on December 16th and got their ass handed to them, losing 5-2. Due to COVID, they didn’t play again until January 2nd. Basically, they got a public-school Christmas Break. A long layoff ought to make a team pretty rusty, right? Umm, large no on that one. They won their return game, roasting the Ducks 4-2, then proceeded to go 14-1 for January, vaulting themselves into first place in the Western Conference. They’re 8 points above the Trashville Sabre Cats (Yes I know they are the Nashville Predators, but look at their dumb-ass logo) with two games in hand.

Nazem Kadri of the Avalanche is having a hell of a season. Here’s hoping he keeps his head on straight and doesn’t do anything stupid to get suspended like her did for the playoffs last year. Photo via The Hockey News shot by Jeff Curry – USA Today Sports

What does two games in hand mean? I’ll get to that. Tighten the laces on your skates and let’s continue.

Continue reading “The NHL Report at the All-Star Break”

Dear NHL, Please STOP BEING STUPID

I thought I’d take a big giant step onto a frozen pond and take a look into the NHL playoffs. After all, they started two days go. Perfect timing… except the NHL, while starting Round 1 of the playoffs is STILL MAKING TEAMS FINISH THE SEASON WHO DIDN’T MAKE THE PLAYOFFS.

Seriously, CAPS is the only way I can make a statement here. This is so blindingly stupid I cannot even put it into words other than MAKING THEM ALL CAPS. The Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames, two teams who haven’t been in any contention whatsoever to snag any playoff spot in the Scotia North division since, I don’t know, mid-March, have two regular season games left. The play tonight and tomorrow. This is going on DURING ROUND 1 OF THE PLAYOFFS.

Does this make any sense? Is it me? Have the NHL brass been playing pond hockey without helmets again?
Traditionally – well hell let’s just throw tradition right out the window into a snowdrift shall we – the playoffs begin when the season ends. Every single major sport does it this way. Why you may ask? So the entire focus is on the playoffs and not wondering how the bottom tier teams are going to do tonight and what impact it has on their draft slot. WHO CARES?! NO ONE!

By the time the season ends for the Flames and Canucks, four of the first-round matchups will be done with Game 2 of their respective series. This is so incomprehensibly stupid I cannot get my head around it SO I JUST HAVE TO USE CAPS.

Sigh. Deep breath. STUPID. Try again,. Sigh. Deep breath. Meditate. Don’t think. Let it go. Frozen. Frozen. Canada. Flames. Canucks. DAMMIT.
I’ll be back.

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The NHL at 80 Percent

This could be thought of two ways – the NHL has reached the 80th percentile on their way through the regular season… or the NHL is really playing at about 80% overall right now.

In truth, it’s both.

This article was all set to run Monday morning… as in Monday the 19th of April. Sunday the 18th was supposed to be Colorado Avalanche game number 45, the benchmark for roughly 80% through the regular season.

So what happened?

Metaphorical representation of the NHL’s fluid stewardship of this season.
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The NHL Report: Halftime

The Avalanche finally reached the 50% mark, actually a game over as they dominated the Wild yesterday afternoon with a 6-0 victory. Yes it is half the season – even if the Stars have only played 26 games and a few teams are at game 34. The Stars are in Dallas which is in Texas which believes COVID is a Democratic conspiracy done in conjunction with China.

Halftime. You sure? Those of who are observant of hockey, there is no halftime in a game. I once took a date to a Blackhawks game and at the end of the first period, she asked me “Is it halftime?” In hindsight it would have been easy to explain to her the game is divided up in thirds, but I just stared at her. Thusly the conversation went as such:
“Is this halftime?”

(silent stare)

“It is, right? Let’s go get snacks.”

“Actually, it’s the end of the first period. There is no halftime in hockey.”

“You’re an asshole.”

Couldn’t blame her. The stare was a little harsh. But the date was not going well anyway. Let’s move along, much as I did after that date.

The Avalanche and Wild don’t like each other much. Then again, the Avalanche don’t really like anybody.
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The NHL Report: First Quarter 2021

I probably should have divided up like periods and done thirds, but as promised I waited until the Avalanche reached game 12, aka 25%ish, to file a report on how the NHL season is going. Twelve games. The season started in early January so my math would have the Avalanche playing game 12 on February 4th. Nope – make that February 14th.

Why the delay? COVID. Five games postponed. I guess since they played Game 12 on Valentine’s Day COVID now stands for Colorado Valentine’s Isolation Day.

“My bloody Valentine…” Sing it with me now.

On another aspect, isolation made sense. The morning temperature on V-Day was a whopping -6˚F at my place. Deep freeze people, deep freeze. COVID has thrown the whole schedule into a blizzard. I wish it were a Dairy Queen one which actually sounds kind of good and my local DQ stays open until midnight and is the size of a Culver’s which is crazy, but alas that is a negative. How is the schedule playing out you ask? Bwa, Ha and Ha. The Vancouver Canucks have played 18 games, the Avalanche 12. The New Jersey Devils? 9.

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Lace Them Up – The 2021 NHL Season Preview

Apparently the Zambonis have all been finally fixed and are able to smooth the ice so the NHL can begin their season January 13th. Luckily the 13th is not a Friday, but it may as well be. Yeah I know, it’s not the Zambonis’ fault they haven’t started the season. It was NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s fault. Fine, it was COVID… or how best to navigate COVID. But, Bettman is such an awful commissioner he’s always the person to point at for NHL problems.

Last year, as you may recall it since the season just ended in the middle of September, the Tampa Bay Lightning took home Lord Stanley’s Cup. It’s so 2020 to have a team that never has any ice outside of its arena claim the Cup.

Yeah, I know. That was so last Fall. So who’s going to hoist the Cup this year… whenever the season ends given the specter of COVID? The season is slated for 56 games, roughly 2/3rds of a normal season. But for the NHL, 56 games is enough to determine who should make the playoffs and who shouldn’t since nearly every team makes the playoffs anyway. A full 16 out of 31 teams make the playoffs. Next year it’ll be a full 50% as the Seattle Kraken are coming. Damn it I love that name.

A side note: before we get into the deep chasms of ice and hand out predictions easier than a dirty carny hands out tainted sno-cones, we have a couple rule changes to go over.

Number 1 – Offsides is now determined to not occur until the offensive players last skate completely crosses the blue line. Ergo, if a skater’s foot is in the air, but still behind or above the line when the puck completely crosses the blue line, he is onside. I am dubbing this the “phantom foot” as I can envision a lot of extended time being allotted while the NHL replay monitors in Toronto spend minutes drinking Labatt’s and deciding if the foot was or wasn’t over as it hovers in frozen time threatening to cross it.

Number 2 – the Colorado Avalanche are allowed to play with an extra attacker the entire season.

Fine, the second one doesn’t exist. It should though. It’s only fair as their goalie situation is still as shaky as spring pond hockey. That’s the reason why they didn’t make it to the final and soundly whip that team from the south. Should I go on with my predictions? Isn’t that enough?

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NHL Playoffs are on and now I Love Them

Perhaps the word ‘love’ is a bit of a stretch. It wasn’t as if I hated the concocted “pre-playoffs” like she was a girlfriend who married the next person they dated after me. The playoffs, COVID-delayed or not, are perpetual. I have only had the woman I dated marry the next person they dated six times, and one of them decided to ‘curve their stick’ and shoot a bit differently, if you know what I mean.

Now the hoopla and fanfare, yes both occurred in the past couple weeks, of both the ‘Round Robin’ and the ‘Pre-Qualifying Round’ has officially exited the ice. Ergo we now have legit playoffs, so let’s take a look at who’s left for the next round. Apparently the NHL has now decided to call the next round the First Round, and I am okay with that. Essentially this means the NHL is now officially smarter than those college guys at the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament (hey remember that? It’s like nostalgia at this point). They convince themselves the play-in games are actually the first round. DUMB.

Did I say “let’s take a look at who’s left?’ I did. Not yet. Just a solid reminder the NHL teams are going nowhere. The Eastern Conference is still playing their games in Toronto at the venerable Scotiabank Arena. The Scotiabank Arena is like the United Center of the North. It’s nice, relatively new, but not a legendary place like Madison Square Garden (which BTW is not a square shape – who knew?). The Western Conference teams are still stuck in Edmonton and play their games at Rogers Place. Same deal. Nice, and kind of like an Olive Garden of arenas… without the breadsticks.

And what teams are not remaining?

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How the NHL Playoff System Works… or Doesn’t

Life is complicated enough right now. COVID is nowhere near slowing down, mostly thanks to the minions who believe it’s a hoax. There are more than 150,000 people who would love to debate those residents of Idiocracy if they could but they can’t, as they died.

Now we have sports making a comeback… of sorts. In a quick breeze let’s rush through what’s up before we get into the nitty gritty dirt band of details for the NHL playoff system.

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