I was wrong. OK. I said it. I thought the Colorado Avalanche were going to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. If you are among the dozen or so people paying attention to the NHL playoffs you will know they cannot as they went out in a game 7 in the first round.
A game 7 for the Colorado Avalanche is mostly poison. They haven’t won a game 7 since the end of May 2002. So, it was not much of a shock really. Not to me anyway. To many at the bar I was at watching said game 7? They were stunned. My comment was “watch the fucking game!” They’ve had a ‘0 for whatever for over 20 years Game 7’ graphic up on the screen about a dozen times!” Then I had to leave. Luckily, I was stone cold sober and those threatening to do me bodily harm were stumbling drunk brave.
So they lost. Granted I did not know their fearless leader and captain Gabe Landeskog (That’s Landy in hockey parlance, NOT Gabby) was going to be out 95% of the season as well as the entire playoffs. However, they have more than one good player. Yet, here they are – playing golf when they are not watching their victors, the Kraken, as they proceed to the second round to face the Dallas South Stars (they really are not the South Stars, but since they came to Dallas via Minnesota where they were the North Stars, it just seems appropriate).
Let me tell you about the Kraken. The Kraken, if you do not know, is a fierce octopus-like creature capable of devouring ships whole. You’ll see in the actual photo below the enormous size of it. Granted, it is far easier to defeat on ice as out of the water and onto frozen water is not their preferred place of battle, but yet the Kraken won.
The grind, she makes it a difficult trek to repeat at Stanley Cup champions… or does she? Can the Colorado Avalanche do it? Can it be done at all?
Is it really that difficult? Perhaps the days of free agency and cap restrictions, maybe? Or is it just a matter of knowing how to control that cap. The Blackhawks did fine in the 2010’s – they won 3 and hadn’t won since 1961 before that – but inevitably collapsed under the weight. They also have never repeated. Ever.
I am going to ignore the cap. Yeah, I said it – ignore it. Not going to go back into the days of the Original 6 and marvel at their successes. That’d be stupid. For the most part it’s not that great. Here are the Original 6 and their overall Stanley Cup records.
Boston Bruins – 20 appearances, 6 victories (ouch) last appearance 2019
Chicago Blackhawks – 13 appearances, 6 victories (oof) last victory 2015
Detroit Red Wings – 24 appearances (wow!), 11 victories (meh) last appearance 2009
Montreal Canadians – 35 appearances (oh Canada!), 24 victories (amazing) last victory in 1993
New York Rangers – 11 appearances (sad), 4 victories the last one in 1994
Toronto Maple Leafs – 21 appearances, 13 victories… but the last time they appeared was when they won in 1967. It’s a sad state of affairs wearing the blue and white.
With all that history, I am going to back to what the NHL called the “Modern Era” even if said era is more than 50 years ago. Hey, that’s hockey. Stick with the past like a Bears fan. Sometimes that’s all you got.
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.
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.
What you say, there are about 20 games still to play in the regular season and you’re talking playoffs and making a Stanley Cup Final prediction? And? Does it matter? Not really. Get your toe into the ice, push off and glide a bit as we look at the playoff picture by starting with the Eastern Conference.
Hey motherpuckers, we are back! The NHL All-Star game has come and gone, and each team’s odd seven-to-ten-day break is over. This is the time of the season when the NBA catches up to the NHL in terms of games played. It’s not weird, it’s just a matter of activity. Basketball has a lot of running, but the uniforms don’t carry weight. An NHL player is loaded with game armor, plus skating takes more effort than running, therefore they have more time between games. NHL season starts earlier, but the NBA always catches up.
Now that your February sports lesson is over, let’s take a look at where the NHL stands at their two-tirds mark in the season. Finally, my yard marker team, the Colorado Avalanche and you know well by now, has reached game 55, posting a magnificent shut-out 3-0 win against the Senators… then losing to the Capitals last night – FUUDDGE.. Where does that leave them in the standings? No, no, no my skate-loving friends, we check out the Eastern conference first.
Shall we take a look at who won’t make the playoffs first? Let’s do that. As predicted at the halfway point, the Detroit Red Wings are not disappointing me in their failure to do anything this season. They’re fortunate they can remember how to lace up skates, let alone play hockey. The others? We have the New Jersey Devils, who used to be the Colorado Rockies… and may as well have been the baseball Colorado Rockies the way they’re playing… and the aforementioned Ottawa Senators… who the Colorado Avalanche just shut out. To complete this trifecta of tenuous relationships between the bottom three and the Avalanche, let’s harken back to when the Dead Wings were good and the Avalanche cared enough to hate them. Sit back, have a Stroh’s or a Coors, and enjoy this clip. If the link doesn’t work, just type in ‘Patrick Roy vs Mike Vernon” and that’ll get you there. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7LZbJhi6Fo
Oh and BTW, we are going to add one more team. I believe it is time to knock on the arena door of the Buffalo Sabres and let them know the climb to get into the playoffs is too steep for them at this point so forget about it. They’ve sunk like a rock since the halfway point, going from the 8th spot down to 13th. Zoinks, Scoob! As for the rest…
Okay, so we are 20% through the season. Yes, as of this writing there are a few stragglers who have yet to reach the 20% mark… and there are a few teams over it. That’s scheduling for you. Hockey players need well-deserved breaks between games. It’s a brutal sport on one’s body, yet of course there is majesty to watching men on ice dazzle with their skating skills but still be able to smoke an opponent into the boards for merely sneering at them.
You may recall, well I am sure you will because EVERYONE READS this well-put together report, and my hockey knowledge is nearly as good as the Bantum-level hockey kid across the street, that the 10% report went sort of like this:
Hockey is violent ballet; grace and guts. And yes, if you’re skating on the same thin ice I am, The Nutcracker would sell more tickets if we knew sometime during the Sugar Plum Fairy one of the dancers would get crosschecked.
Okay, we’re around the 10% mark of the season. No, there was not a 0% report as a) zero means no games have been played, and b) no one wants to be a zero. What you’re going to see here is a breakdown of each team so far by conference and who’s going to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup based upon the current standings. Let’s go East first.