Monthly Archives: May 2013

Live from the Nosebleeds: Memorial Cup Edition

I would like to begin this article by congratulating the Halifax Mooseheads on their Memorial Cup victory! They played a great tournament with their two brightest stars, Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin, stepping up when their team needed them most. Both of these players are in the race to be drafted in the top 3 spots in this year’s NHL draft, and they left a lasting impression on NHL scouts after this tournament. Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks was ranked number one by the International Scouting Services before this tournament, yet MacKinnon has now moved to number one. It was most probably his hat-trick in the final game of the Memorial Cup, sealing the win for his team.

The Memorial Cup tournament is one of those tournaments that an entire nation waits to watch. It is all the best Junior teams from around Canada competing against one another for the prestigious Memorial Cup. It is also the last chance for players who are eligible to be drafted over the summer to show team scouts and general managers what they can do, in hopes of being drafted higher. Many general managers go to the Memorial Cup games, keeping an eye on draftable talents. With so much on the line for these young players, the games tend to be fast-paced, exciting, and can often be a display of pure skill and talents. That is what makes the Memorial Cup so special.

What better way to celebrate the memorial cup than to put up three of the best videos from this year’s tournament! I’ve selected what I consider to be the top three videos from this year’s Memorial Cup. What is your favourite video? Vote at the bottom for yours favourite one!

ANTHEM SINGER MESSES UP AMERICAN NATIONAL ANTHEM, HUMS HER WAY THROUGH IT WITH THE CROWD’S HELP

This is probably everyone’s definition of a nightmare. You are in front of thousands of people, with the broadcast being shown all over the country, and you draw a complete blank on the song you’ve practiced over and over again. I would have frozen like a deer in the headlights before turning and bolting for the closest exit, most likely slipping and falling on the ice.

Full credit to the singer. Sometimes all you can do is hum your way through your problem and keep going! The crowd helped her along the way and was very encouraging, instead of booing and making her feel even worse. I was incredibly embarrassed for the poor woman, and I’m sure she hasn’t gotten over it just. Hopefully she can laugh at this one in a couple of years, because it will still be making some sports blooper reels for many years to come.

MAX DOMI PULLS OFF ONE OF THE MOST AMAZING PASSES IN HISTORY, AND HE MADE IT LOOK EASY

It takes a special, special player to pull of a trick like that. The saucer pass isn’t easy, and it’s even more difficult to do going at full speed. A between the legs shot is even more difficult to pull off. Now, to combine those two moves to create the between-the-legs saucer pass is unheard of. And not only does he pull it off, but he pulled it off PERFECTLY. The pass  landed right on Bo Horvat’s stick for a tap-in goal. Absolutely incredible. Hopefully we’ll be seeing more of this from Max in the future

MACKINNON’S HAT TRICK HELPS MOOSEHEADS CLINCH THE 2013 MEMORIAL CUP!

Big time players have big time plays. This is one of those games. Getting a hat trick is impressive enough on its own, but this was a hat trick in the memorial cup final. That is the NHL equivalent of getting a hat trick in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. What sets apart the best from the rest is how they perform under pressure. MacKinnon showed that not only can he play under pressure, but he excels under pressure. One could argue that his perfomance in the Memorial Cup Final alone is what cemented him as number one with the ISS. Good for him, and I’m sure he will have a great NHL career, whether he’s picked 1st, 2nd, or even 3rd. Great players excel anywhere, and MacKinnon is no different.

What was your favourite video from the Memorial Cup? If there was a video I missed, by all means post it in the comments!

NHL Playoffs: Round 2 predictions (Slightly less late this time)

Once again, I would like to apologize for being slightly behind schedule on this one. Spring is a very busy time of year, with getting the yard ready for summer and starting up again at my summer job at the local golf course… some days it’s tough even to get to the computer! Much like last time, these predictions were also written before round 2 started. I’m looking pretty good so far, but we’ll see how long that lasts.

As for round 1, I went 5/8 with my picks, with the worst one being VAN in 7 (ended up being SJS in 4, the complete opposite). I was bang on with CHI in 5, the only prediction where I was right for both the team and the number of games. How did you guys do?

On to round 2:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Pittsburgh Penguins vs Ottawa Senators

Once again, I would say that this is one of the easier picks. Much like the PIT-NYI series, the penguins are just too powerful (although the Islanders did give them a run for their money, surprising many people). Like many series, this one may come down to goaltending, but from a different angle. The Senators will need GREAT goaltending to win, whereas the penguins will only need GOOD goaltending to win. The penguins can get away with less-than-stellar goaltending, simply because they can score. Craig Anderson will have to be the phenomenal goaltender he was in the regular season and for most of the Montreal series. The senators simply cannot afford to have anything less than Anderson at his best. If he is not sharp, the series will not last very long. The penguins are just too good a team to make any mistakes against.

Prediction: Penguins in 5

Boston Bruins vs New York Rangers

This is going to be an extremely close series. These are two very tough, defensive-minded teams, who do the hard work to grind out a win. Both teams have great goaltending, with Lundqvist being slightly ahead of Rask at the moment. Lundqvist is currently on a two-game shutout streak, and there’s no reason to think that he may continue doing that. He has been phenomenal all year, arguably being New York’s best player. Rask has also played very well, but he has not been as solid as consistent as this round’s counterpart. The Rnagers, although have a couple of superstars on their team, have had scoring from almost all their lines. The Bruins relied on the Krejci-Horton-Lucic line for almost all of their scoring in the first round. Bergeron did bring his A-game for game 7, but the Bruins need more from Marchand and Seguin. I think that the Bruins, after their amazing comeback in game 7 against Toronto, will finally wake up and play more like the team that went to win it all two years ago. All lines will be contributing, and I think the Rangers will have their hands full. This series is going to be decided by a goal or two, and I would be surprised to see many high-scoring games in this one.

Prediction: Bruins in 7

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Chicago Blackhawks vs Detroit Red Wings

An original six match-up is almost always going to be a good series, and this one is no different. These are two teams that have gotten accustomed to winning, so both teams are going to battle hard to win. Chicago only lost seven games in the regular season, and I don’t see that trend changing anytime soon. The Blackhawks are just too solid, from top to bottom. They have some of the best forwards in the league, and their goalies have exceeded all expectations. Detroit, although still a strong team, is going to have a hard time keeping up with the Blackhawks. The Red Wings are getting up there in age, and the team still has yet to recover from losing Lidstrom.

Prediction: Chicago in 6

Los Angeles Kings vs San Jose Sharks

This is a tough match up to decide on. Both of these team played very well in the first round, and I expect that strong play to carry on into round 2. San Jose is trying to get a huge monkey of their back, by actually doing well in the postseason. They have built a reputation of being an offensive powerhouse during the regular season, only to fizzle out when the playoffs start. They weren’t the usual powerhouse this season, but they easily took care of the Canucks in four games. The Kings are trying to win back-to-back cups, and Jonathan Quick has been playing like the Conn Smythe-winning goalie from last year. Quick has to keep that up for the kings to get by the sharks. Making mistakes against the sharks is going to be very costly. However, it’s also going to be difficult for the Sharks to score on Quick if he continues to play the way he did in round 1. Like the Bruins-Rangers series, this is going to be decided by a goal or two.

Prediction: San Jose in 7

Is hybrid icing truly the answer?

The icing rule in the NHL is arguably one of the most discussed rules in the hockey world. Many people don’t like the rule, which involves players racing for the puck at full speed, trying to touch the puck before the other player. Former NHL defenseman Bobby Dollas, a hockey insider on Montreal’s sports radio station TSN 690, has voiced his views with regards to the current icing rule. “It’s crazy to make the players skate as fast as they can for 200 feet to then stop on a dime at the boards. It’s crazy”. When you think about it that way, it’s difficult to disagree. It is a crazy play.

It is all too common to see two players crash into the boards racing for the puck on an icing call, which all too often leads to someone getting hurt. A few years ago, the NHL changed the rule so that the player who touches the puck cannot be checked by another player. This helped get rid of some very brutal, full speed hits we’ve seen in previous years. However, it hasn’t made the race for the puck 100% safe. Just ask Edmonton Oiler’s Taylor Fedun, who broke his femur racing for a puck on an icing against Minnesota’s Eric Nystrom (for an interetsing video on Fedun’s recovery, click HERE). This is a clear example of an unnecessary play leading to an avoidable injury.

On March 13, 2013, it was announced that the NHL general managers agreed to move forward with moving to hybrid icing, starting next season. There are still some steps to the process before the rule change is confirmed, but the wheels are in motion.

For those who are unsure of what hybrid icing, allow me to ATTEMPT to explain it. It’s difficult to write out, especially without video or photo assistance. In a nutshell, current icing is when the defensive team, when in their half of the ice, shoots the puck to the other end of the ice and the OTHER team gets to the puck first. If there are both an offensive and defensive player racing for the puck, the referee waits to see who touches the puck first. If it is the offensive player who get there first, he whistles the play down for icing. If the defensive team touches the puck first, play goes on. Hybrid icing means that if it is clear that the offensive team will get to the first, the referee blows it down as soon as it passes the icing line (which is the goal line, but outside of the net…).

Hybrid icing is not the final answer for the NHL, and the players won’t truly be safe until no-touch icing is implemented. For those of you who don’t know about no-touch icing, it’s basically this: if the puck passes the icing line before either team touches the puck, it’s called for icing. Hybrid icing just doesn’t get rid of the plays that lead to injuries. With hybrid icing, Fedun’s broken leg would still have happened. The NHL owners believe that it will reduce the amount of dangerous collisions on icing plays, but I am having a difficult time seeing how. Hybrid icing only gets rid of the icing plays where a defenseman makes his way back, unopposed, to touch the puck. The dangerous icing plays are still going to happen. So what does hybrid icing really do? It gets people off the NHL’s backs. This makes it look like they’re attempting to make the game safer for their players. However, the NHLPA has stated that the players aren’t a fan of hybrid icing, and they would much rather go right to no-touch icing. Can you really blame them? The players deserve to be safe, even if that means making the game just a little bit less exciting. I find it curious that the NHL won’t go to the no-touch icing, even if it is what the players want. Is the extra little bit of excitement from the race for the puck really worth putting players in potentially dangerous scenarios? Apparently it is.

Don’t get me wrong, I definitely think that this is a step in the right direction. But it’s not the solution to the problem. It’s like putting a band-aid on a severed finger: sure it may help a little, but it’s not going stop the bleeding. I fear that, like many issues in the NHL (see my post on visors HERE), it takes an injury, like Fedun’s, to get the ball rolling. Good on the NHL owners for doing something to solve the problem, but they are not out of the woods yet. They won’t be out of the woods until no-touch icing is put into effect.

NHL Playoffs: Round 1 Predictions (a few days behind schedule)

Alright, I’m going to start by saying that I wrote these predictions before the playoffs began, but I never got around to posting them on the blog. I’m telling the truth! You’ll know because a couple of my predictions seem a little silly after the first few nights of games *cough* LA *cough*. Anyways, here we go:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

1 Pittsburgh Penguins vs New York Islanders

This is one of the easier picks in my opinion. It is difficult to argue that Pittsburgh is not the best team in the East. They have a solid goaltender, a quick defensive group, and one of the most skilled groups of forwards in the league. Even before picking up Iginla and Morrow (players who will really help a long playoff run, in my opinion), this team was still one of the best in the East. The islanders played amazing hockey to make it into the playoffs, however I think the penguins are just too powerful for the Islanders to deal with. If the Penguins shut down Tavares, the Islanders don’t have much else to answer with.

Prediction: Penguins in 5

Montreal Canadiens vs Ottawa Senators

Unlike the first prediction, this one was one of the more difficult picks. Ottawa and Montreal are very similar teams. They both have young, superstar defensemen (Karlsson and Subban), and two of the best goalies in the league, even with Price’s recent struggles. Scoring is divided through at least three lines, with neither team have a “Superstar” forward, especially with Spezza being sidelined. In my opinion, this series will come down to which goaltender plays the best. This series will probably come down to one goal, much like the Boston-Montreal series in the 2011 playoffs. Anderson has the upper hand at this point, but if Price can play the way everyone knows he can, this series can easily go to either team.

Prediction: Senators in 7

Washington Capitals vs. New York Rangers

This is another tough one. The Rangers have had their struggles throughout their year, with many of their key forwards under-performing for much of the season. Lundqvist was good, but not nearly as great as the Vezina-winning goaltender from last year. Rick Nash seems to have found his stride at the end of the year, but Brad Richards still has yet to find his rhythm  Many are hoping he’ll excel in the playoffs to make up for his below-average regular season. Washington looked as though they would miss the playoffs altogether, until their captain Ovechkin took his game to an unworldly level, helping his team steamroll their way to third in the Eastern conference. If Ovechkin can keep his game elevated to where it was right up until the end of the season, they Capitals are going to be difficult to contain. Braden Holtby also has to be solid, but he proved last post-season that he can steal a few games for his team.

Prediction: Capitals in 7

Boston Bruins vs Toronto Maple Leafs

Many people are putting a lot of focus on the Kessel/Seguin story. In my opinion, that topic has been gotten waaaaaaaay too much air time in the last couple of years. I don’t really remember the last time a traded players (or traded player and the drafted player from that trade) have been compared for so long. These teams are much more than just those two players, so that’s what I’m going to talk about. Toronto have toughened up their team this year, and a few times they flexed their muscle to help tilt a game in their favour (just ask the Habs in the first few games they played). The leafs are talented, but they are still very young. The entire team has only 12 games more playoff experience that Boston’s Jaromir Jagr. Reimer has been good throughout the year, but the playoffs are a different animal, something he has never experienced before. The Bruins, on the other hands, are still made up of most of the parts from the Stanley Cup-winning team of two years ago. They are extremely deep, and can roll 4 lines throughout the entire game. Both Tuuka Rask and Anton Khudobin have been very good throughout the year, and their defense is as solid as ever. I think that the Leafs are going to have a tough time dealing with a very solid Bruins team.

Prediction: Bruins in 5

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Chicago Blackhawks vs Minnesota Wild

Let’s face it: Chicago is the team to beat. They were the best team in the league by quite a large margin, and they don’t look like they’ll be slowing down anytime soon. Both of their goalies have been incredible, all four lines have been contributing offensively, and their defense is tough and stingy. They best forwards (Toews, Kane, Hossa and Sharp) have been their best players. This is a complete team, and they’re going to be tough to beat. The Wild made two massive additions over the summer with Suter and Parise, but I feel that the team is simply missing two or three key players to be a contender. Until then, they’re in for a wild ride with the Blackhawks.

Prediction: Blackhawks in 5

Anaheim Ducks vs Detroit Red Wings

This is going to be a great series to watch. The ducks have exceeded all expectations this season, and they were consistent all season, whereas many people though they might fizzle out towards the end of the season. They have played with great energy and determination, taking many teams by surprise. They are blessed with four or five superstars, and they have been contributing a lot this season. On the other hand, the Red Wings only just crept into the playoffs. This is a team that is used to being an elite team in the West, and I don’t think they enjoyed having to fight for one of the last spots of the playoffs. The Red Wings feel like they have something to prove, and I’m sure they want to bring Anaheim’s stellar season to an end very quickly. Both of these teams are going to battle hard, and I think it’s going to go all the way.

Prediction: Anaheim in 7

Vancouver Canucks vs San Jose Sharks

I think it’s taken a while for Vancouver to get over losing in the Stanley Cup Finals two seasons ago. This year, they want to hush all the critics, especially after being eliminated last year in embarrassing style. The Canucks are going to want to make an example of the Sharks, but they are missing one of their best goalies: Corey Schneider. Luongo is still a great goalie, and there is every possibility that he can help the Canucks win the series. The Sharks are a very talented team, especially with their top two forward lines. This team can easily score 4 or 5 goals a game, but they are a little vulnerably defensively. Niemi will have to be outstanding for the Sharks to win this series, because the Canucks have 4 deep lines that can all contribute on the score sheet.

Prediction: Canucks in 7

St. Louis Blues vs Los Angeles Kings

I’m going to admit something on this pick. Have you ever taken a multiple choice test, and gotten 2 or 3 questions in a row with the same letter answer? You feel like you’ve made a mistake, and almost try to make the next question be a different answer. Well, that’s kinda what I did on this pick. For the first three Western Conference picks, I went with the higher seed. I didn’t like the idea of picking seeds 1-4. And to be fair, this series is going to be that close. You could basically flip a coin on this one. Is Quick going to take his game to the next level like he did last post-season? Or will Elliott play the way he did last season, putting up some of the best statistics in NHL history? I feel that both teams are pretty even from top to bottom. They both have some great players, and both teams can be really stingy when it comes to goals against. Even though there might not be a lot of goals, I think this series is going to be very entertaining.

Prediction: Kings in 7

What would your picks be? Do you think there is anything I overlooked? Feel free to comment with you picks, or who you think is going to really step it up this post season!