May 142014
 

After back-to-back Stanley Cup Final appearances in 2008 and 2009 many predicted a decade of dominance for the Pittsburgh Penguins. How wrong we all were. With last night’s loss to the New York Rangers, the Penguins have now prematurely exited the playoffs five years in a row. With each subsequent loss the pressure mounted. Only Crosby had been immune to scrutiny. But no longer.

Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers celebrate a game 7 win over the Penguins.

Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers celebrate a game 7 win over the Penguins.

Following a dismal playoffs which saw him post only a single goal and nine points in 13 games, Sidney Crosby now must answer some tough questions. His disappearing act in the second round is one of the most surprising aspects of these playoffs and can be considered the reason the Penguins are not advancing. I do not want to take anything away from a superb performance by the Rangers, but if Crosby plays like he normally does the Penguins advance and the Rangers go home. Simple as that.

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Apr 302013
 

So, once in a while, Steve and I will shoot the breeze and talk some puck. We decided to record for your listening pleasure. In the podcast, we go through every single series in the playoffs, make our predictions and, of course, make fun of Leafs Nation.

Apologies for the low sound levels and the lack of massaging to the sound. We wanted to get this up before the playoffs start so you have something to keep you busy while you wait.

It’s a long podcast, but click on the link and check out the time stamps listed below to skip to the series you want to listen to.

Cheers!

Armchair Hockey podcast no. 1

Apr 292013
 

The most exciting part of the year is here. The season was abridged, but the playoffs won’t be. Two full months of playoff hockey. Glorious.

So many story lines, so many things to go over. Can the Isles make the Pens sweat a little? How healthy will the Blues or Kings be after their series? Can the Red Wings pull off an upset over the second-ranked Ducks? Is this the Canucks’ last chance? Can a re-vitalized Ovechkin get the Caps over the hump?

Without further ado, here’s the quick and dirty for all eight playoff match-ups in the the 2013 NHL Playoffs.

1 Chicago Blackhawks vs. 8 Minnesota Wild

The Blackhawks were probably hoping for Columbus because no team wants to deal with Zach Parise in the playoffs. Parise had eight goals to lead the Devils last year and it was pretty clear Parise was the Devils’ MVP.

Despite the addition of Parise, who scored 18 goals this year, Minnesota has been starving on offense all season. Dany Heatley’s out for the season after getting shoulder surgery, Jason Pominville is questionable for game one, meaning their best goal scorer right now is Devin Setoguchi. Ohhh, scary.

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Jun 132012
 

I thought we’d see a much more confident and assertive Devils squad than the one that showed up in a 6-1 drubbing in Game 6. You could make up all sorts of excuses about the refs, but the one call they needed to get right, the dangerous Steve Bernier hit on Rob Scuderi, they did get right.

When the Kings pumped a third powerplay goal past Martin Brodeur, the game was over. It’s one thing to pump one, maybe two, pucks past playoff MVP Jonathan Quick, let alone three. When Jeff Carter glided in from the blueline and floated a rolling puck over Brodeur’s right shoulder and put the Kings up 4-0, you might as well have started engraving those names on the Cup. But good on the Kings, well deserved, especially Mike Richards and Darryl Sutter.

One of the worst things about the NHL is that teams like to mimic each other. Once a team wins a Cup, the other 29 teams will want to “borrow” that winning formula. When the Red Wings won Cups, it was because they had hardened, experienced veterans who knew what it took to win. In the years of Brodeur and Roy, and the Conn Smythe-winning performances of lesser stars like J-S Giguere and Cam Ward, everyone felt elite goaltending was the magic ingredient. That notion was destroyed pretty quickly when Cup finalists Philadelphia and Chicago trotted out Antti Niemi and Michael Leighton. When the Bruins won the Cup, everyone wanted to get tougher. (Which is also yet another reason why dealing Hodgson for a project like Zack Kassian, whose skill set obviously doesn’t and hasn’t meshed well with the skill-heavy Canucks, was a terrible decision.)

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Jun 112012
 

Is there any reason not to believe that this series won’t go seven games now? Yes, the predictable media narrative is that the Kings have lost the momentum, the Devils have found a crack in the armour and all of a sudden, Jonathan Quick looks oh-so-beatable right now.

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Jun 062012
 

I’ve said it many, many times over. The Canucks’ best chance at winning the Cup came last year. I can say the exact same thing about the Devils this year.

There is no one, clear way to build a championship roster. We know for certain that having homegrown talent goes a long way, as does good goaltending and a steady cast of veterans from lines one through four and pairings one through three. We’ve seen how drastically different the Bruins, Pens and Red Wings play hockey.

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May 272012
 

Returning from a one-month hiatus (finishing up my internship at the Hockey Hall of Fame), just in time for the finals… except I think I speak for everyone when I say I would’ve liked to see a LA-NY matchup.

The Kings and Devils (anyone predict that?) met only twice this year, both times in October, and both times the Devils won. Except that’s a moot point because the Kings are a drastically different team, and the Devils too after adding Marek Zidlicky. It’s not a particularly sexy matchup, but it’s an intriguing one. I don’t think this will be a barnburner-type series like Detroit-Pittsburgh, Vancouver-Boston, or Philadelphia-Chicago, but more like Anaheim-New Jersey or Carolina-Edmonton (God forbid). These two teams aren’t exactly the darlings of their respective cities (that’d be the Lakers, Clippers, Dodgers, Yankees, Giants, and Jets) yet find themselves at the pinnacle of their sport. Fans will realize that they’re playing for a championship trophy, but it’s different in hockey cities who know the sheer gravity and consequence of winning (or losing) the finals.

Regardless, we always learn a few things about the NHL (and hockey in general) by this time of the year. Here’s some things to keep in mind.

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Apr 272012
 

Even when people picked the Preds to win the series, no one expected it’d last just five games. Unlike the St. Louis-LA series, in which both teams like to keep possession of the puck, this series is the exact opposite, with Nashville just ahead of Minnesota for second-worst FenClose and Phoenix just behind Toronto. The biggest reason why the Coyotes find themselves in round two is because of Mike Smith (arguable Vezina snub), but this time he has Pekka Rinne (Vezina nominee) across the ice instead of Corey Crawford.

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Apr 272012
 

What the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs has proved is that the balance of power in the Western Conference has shifted. Former powerhouses Vancouver, Detroit, and San Jose were all ousted in the first round in surprisingly quick fashion. No we’re heading into unknown territory, a race in which no player can repeat as Cup champions…

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Apr 242012
 

I’ve officially changed my stance. In my previous post, I thought that Vigneault should be given the benefit of the doubt, having led the Canucks to two straight Presidents’ Trophies and a Finals appearance. But after Mike Gillis’ press conference today, I’ve done a complete 180.

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