Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Kerrzy’s Notebook: Playoff recap, Day 14

Round one ended with a bang: two Eastern conference game sevens, and two exciting endings!

Those exciting endings set up at least one dream playoff series between a couple of guys that’ll be dominating headlines for years to come.

Here’s the recap:

(Capitals 2, Rangers 1)

-The Rangers scored first and looked like the better team, but it was an older playoff vet that would do them in – Sergei Fedorov. Henrik Lundqvist looked to be back on form in game seven after a couple of disappointing starts, but Fedorov beat him with a beauty that rattled the domain of the water bottle. That actually makes the 39-year-old Fedorov the oldest player to score the winning goal in a game seven in NHL history. Sean Avery actually looked quite good in this game, and the Rangers did everything but score as the game wore on. Simeon Varlamov now has more playoff starts than regular season starts!

(Hurricanes 4, Devils 3)

-I still can’t believe how this one turned out…with 1:20 to play in the third period, Jussi Jokinen tied the game for Carolina and with 32 seconds left, Eric Staal potted the game winner (through the “dreaded seven-hole” as Martin Brodeur would later lament). It was the latest game-winner in a game seven in NHL history and surely that’s a sting that’ll be felt for months if you’re a Devils fan. I couldn’t believe my eyes when Staal beat Brodeur, who up to that point was looking sharp. Carolina’s Cam Ward made a few game-saving stops in the third period to make that all possible. Do you think Eric Staal believes what just happened?

As for my round one picks…

I was 6-2 stricly going by who advanced, but I only picked the right number of games in one series. I’m only human, people!

And here’s how round two shapes up, along with my picks:

In the EAST:

(1) Boston vs. (4) Carolina –Bruins in five
(2) Washington vs. (3) Pittsburgh –Pens in six

In the WEST:

(2) Detroit vs. (8) Anaheim –Wings in six
(3) Vancouver vs. (4) Chicago –Hawks in six

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Playoff recap, Day 13

So weekends seem to be where I fall short in terms of keeping the blog going -- I found myself without an internet connection again this week as I helped my girlfriend move. The internet connection would be the LAST thing I packed up, but that's just me!

Here's the recap:

(Blackhawks 4, Flames 1)

-Jarome Iginla said his team "wasn't ready" for their game five loss to the Chicago Blackhawks...so surely, come game six IN Calgary, they'd be ready, right? Wrong! Patrick Kane scored 2:20 into the game, it was 2-0 going into the second and 3-0 going into the third. So what the heck happened? All signs point to Nikolai Khabibulin stealing this one (shots were 44-16 for the Flames). Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff looked like he caught a case of the Lundqvist...the normally-dependable netminder allowed four goals in each of his final three starts of the season. Where was Iggy? Jokinen, Cammalleri, can you hear me? Tough break for the Flames, but you'll find no sympathy up on this end of highway two!

(Ducks 4, Sharks 1)

-Another great season, another early exit from the postseason for the San Jose Sharks. I knew as soon as they went down 2-0 in the series (after losing just five regulation games at the Shark Tank all season) that this wouldn't be an easy battle for them. I said right from the start -- for a team looking to prove themselves in the playoffs, they had the absolute WORST first round matchup, an Anaheim team that's not really your stereotypical eighth seed. The Ducks were just too strong, too deep and Jonas Hiller stood on his head on more than one occasion. I'll still call this an upset though, because there is no reason San Jose should have lost!

With those two results, the round two matchups for the Western Conference semi finals are set:

(2) Detroit vs. (8) Anaheim
(3) Vancouver vs. (4) Chicago


Tonight:

*NY Rangers @ Washington - 5pm (Series: 3-3)
*Carolina @ New Jersey - 5:30pm (Series: 3-3)

Here's what I missed from this past weekend:

-The Pittsburgh Penguins did what a lot of CEO's wish they could on Saturday, overcoming a huge deficit to beat the Philadelphia Flyers and move on to the second round of the playoffs. The Pens were down 3-0 by the 25th minute of the game, but won 5-3 and sent the Flyers packin' for a second straight year.

-The Calgary Flames were down 3-0 before their first mesh-tickler on Saturday night in a 5-1 loss. The Flames also lost defenceman Dion Phaneuf, who got rocked one time too many and looked very wobbly heading off the ice and down the tunnel.

-Patrick Marleau, known in recent years for the 'double flamingo' moreso than his leadership, scored the overtime goal that kept the San Jose Sharks alive on Saturday night. Joe Thornton jumped so high, it looked like he might get stuck up in the rafters.

-On Sunday, the Washington Capitals looked more like the team that finished second overall in the Eastern Conference, beating the Rangers 5-3. King Henrik (Lundqvist) got yanked for a second straight game as the Caps forced a game seven. John Tortorella watched this one from the stands after getting involved with a fan during game five and earning a one-game suspension. Caps tough guy Donald Brashear will watch the next six games. The league suspended him after he broke Blair Betts' orbital bone with a blind-side hit and got involved with Colton Orr in the warm ups.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Playoff recap, Day Ten

Just one lonely game in the NHL on Day Ten of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Washington's playoff lives were on the line, and they certainly played like it!

(Capitals 4, Rangers 0)

My big question before this game was 'can Simeon Varlamov bounce back from the shaky game-winner he let in last game?' (he bobbled a routine save, Chris Drury put it behind him). Did he? Yes, he sure did. The rookie made 20 saves for the shutout (his second of the series). On the other end of the ice King Henrik, as in Lundqvist, looked more like Jose Theodore, letting in four goals on 14 shots. That's a far cry from the previous four games, where he made at least 32 saves per night. For the second time in as many days, it was role players stepping up when their team faced elimination. On Thursday night it was Philly's grinders coming up big in a shutout win over the Penguins. On Friday -- it was Washington's Matt Bradley. He scored his first ever playoff goal on a shorthanded breakaway to open the scoring, and then scored again minutes later!

The other interesting thing about this game was the absence of super-pest Sean Avery, who was a healthy scratch after a couple of bone head plays in game four. Was that Avery's dad sitting behind the Rangers bench, getting into it with coach John Tortorella?

Also: is this the year of the goalie? There have been four shutouts in the last five games!

Today:

Pittsburgh @ Philadelphia - 1pm (Series: 3-2 PIT)
-Pens can move on with road win

Calgary @ Chicago - 7pm (Series: 2-2)
-Home team has won every game so far

Anaheim @ San Jose - 8pm (Series: 3-1 ANA)
-Will this be the end to the latest chapter in the Sharks pathetic playoff performances?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Playoff recap, Day Nine

Three shutouts and a barn-burner on Day Nine of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

One team got bounced, one team lived to fight another day and one Goliath may have met it's David, albeit a pretty tall David.

Here's the recap:

(Flyers 3, Penguins 0)

-With their backs against the wall, the Philadelphia Flyers looked to their grinders on Thursday night. Not the four players that scored over 30 goals in the regular season, or even the league-high six players with at least 25 regular season goals. Nope, the game winning goal was scored by Arron Asham, a laser beam from the blue line that surprised Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury early on in the second period. Believe it or not, Asham's fourth line has combined for five points this series, compared to the second line of Jeff Carter, Scott Hartnell and Joffrey Lupul, who have just four! Marty Biron took a page out of Fleury's book this time around too, stealing the show between the Philly pipes with a 28-save shutout performance. Game six goes Saturday in the City of Brotherly Love.

(Red Wings 6, Blue Jackets 5)

-Oh, to be Fredrik Modin today. Last night with the game tied 5-5 and less than two minutes left in regulation, Modin jumped the boards a little early and played the puck before the guy he was replacing was even close to the bench. That's a penalty! On the ensuing power play, Johan Franzen jammed home the game winner and the series clincher with 47 seconds to go. Unfortunately for the Jackets, they waited until the bitter end to put up a fight...but at least they gave the home crowd a bit of excitement to end the season! Poor Freddy Modin though, he'll be kickin' himself.

(Devils 1, Hurricanes 0)

-It seems like every night of the NHL playoffs, a goalie steps up and steals a game. Biron played good for Philly on Thursday night, but Martin Brodeur was exceptional in net for the New Jersey Devils in their 1-0 game five win over the Carolina Hurricanes. Brodeur earned his 23rd career playoff goose egg with a 44-save performance, tying him for the all-time lead in that category with Patrick Roy. It almost didn't happen though...during the second period, Brodeur collided with Carolina forward Chad LaRose about 20 feet in front of the net while going for a loose puck. LaRose's skate blade hit the back of Brodeur's leg, giving him a four-inch cut -- but he stayed in the game, despite the pain and the blood. Now THAT'S playoff hockey! ESPN had a great quote from Brodeur after the game; he said "I'm not that tough. I probably wouldn't have continued if I had to take stitches." I love it! The Devils can move on to the second round with a win in North Carolina on Sunday.

(Ducks 4, Sharks 0)

-How often does THIS happen? Four games, three shutouts (and 11 goals in the fourth game, just to even it out). Apart from the eighth seed taking a commanding 3-1 series lead by shutting out the number one seed for the second time in four games, the other thing that made this game unique was the 4.0 magnitude earthquake that shook the arena during the first intermission. That seemed to spark the Ducks -- namely, rookie Bobby Ryan, who scored twice in the middle frame as the Ducks blanked the Sharks 4-0, putting them on the brink of elimination heading back to the Shark Tank where they USED to be nearly unbeatable.

Tonight:

NY Rangers @ Washington - 5pm (Series: 3-1 NYR)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Playoff recap, Day Eight

And then there were 14...

On day eight of the Stanley Cup playoffs, we saw another one bite the dust (but not without a pinch of controversy), another goalie take over a series (and Sean Avery maybe playing his way OUT of the playoffs) and another suspenseful game between the 'Hawks and the Flames...

Here's the recap:

(Bruins 4, Canadiens 1)

-Montreal's centennial season is over, and ultimately it was the Ghost of players past coming back to haunt them in the first round. Coach/GM Bob Gainey didn't have to worry about Montreal fans booing the US national anthem -- they were all over his team instead! Former Hab Michael Ryder had seven points in four games against his old team and they looked defeated after a couple of quick goals in the second period. A bit of controversy surrounding that though, as Phil Kessel's breakaway goal to make it 3-1 looked to be waaaay offside on the replay. They went up 4-1 under a minute later. Frustrations boiled over late in the game too, especially for Mike Komisarek of the Habs, who had already lost a fight to Boston's Milan Lucic. Late in the game, he hit Lucic with a high cross check and earned himself five and a game. The league could suspend him, but that would just be insult to injury! The Bruins dominated this series from start to finish.

(Rangers 2, Capitals 1)

-The look on John Tortorella's face says it all. Sean Avery took a high-sticking penalty in the last three minutes of Tuesday night's one-goal win, his second dumb penalty in a matter of minutes, and his coach's stare could have burned a hole right through him. Avery got caught up with a Washington player and wound up clocking him in the face with his stick. If I was Sean Avery, I'd be buying Henrik Lundqvist and the rest of the NY penalty killers a nice steak dinner...because had Washington scored, I think Torts might have ended his hockey career. Speaking of Lundqvist, he made 38 saves basically stealing this one for his club. Without his 30+ saves each night, this would be a different series. On the other end, Simeon Varlamov has allowed three goals in three games, but the game-winner on Wednesday was a bad one. If the Rangers beat the Caps in five, I think it would be safe to call that an upset.

(Flames 6, Blackhawks 4)

-Does Stephen King write the boxscores for the Calgary Flames? They certainly seem to enjoy a little suspense, come playoff time. They lose the first goal, they fight back. They score three in the first half of the second period, then give up three in the second half. Thankfully for the Flames, they wound up winning this one...otherwise I think Mike Keenan would have some choice words for his players (although I'm sure he'll still give them an earful). A good sign for Calgary was that Olli Jokinen scored a pair of goals, his first mesh-ticklers in sixteen games. The series shifts back to Chicago now for game five, tied at 2-2.

Tonight:

Philadelphia @ Pittsburgh - 5pm (Series: 3-1 PIT)
Detroit @ Columbus - 5pm (Series: 3-0 DET)

Carolina @ NJ - 5:30pm (Series: 2-2)
SJ @ Anaheim - 8:30pm (Series 2-1 ANA)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Playoff recap, Day Seven

Another interesting night in the NHL -- a league first, a controversial last-second game-winner, a series sweep in St. Louis, a win for a team that should have won already and more...

Here's the recap:

(Red Wings 4, Blue Jackets 1)

-The NHL playoffs came to Ohio for the first time in league history, but it was the Detroit Red Wings spoiling the party with a 4-1 win. The Wings scored 1:07 into the game and again with 46 seconds left in the first period to set the tone. They scored again midway through the third and added an empty net goal after the Jackets got to within two. R.J. Umberger's goal with just under four minutes left broke a 143:28 shutout streak by Detroit goalie Chris Osgood. In fact, Umberger has both of Columbus' goals so far in the series. I was impressed that he was even IN the game by the third period, because he got absolutely drilled by Red Wings defenceman Brad Stuart early on. Helmet off, couldn't stand up...it was intense! Mike Commodore tried to lay out Dan Cleary on the next shift, but missed and wound up in the Detroit bench. The Wings looked good once again and take a 3-0 series lead into Thursday's game four.

(Penguins 3, Flyers 1)

-Shots were 46-26 for the Flyers in this one, but they could only beat Marc-Andre Fleury once in a 3-1 loss to the Pens. Sidney Crosby opened the scoring in a bit of a controversial way by crashing the net and having the puck bounce in off of his skate, his body and then his stick before crossing the line -- Philly coach John Stevens disputed the goal, but to no avail. The Pens were up by a pair after one, the Flyers made it close at the midway point of the second period...but they simply could NOT beat Fleury. A good goalie can steal you a series and it looks like that's exactly what is happening here. With the exception of game three, the Flyers have been unable to beat Fleury more than twice in any game. On the other hand, the Penguins are scoring at least three goals per game so far, making them even harder to beat. I thought Philadelphia would be a force come playoff time, but it looks as though the Pens have got this one wrapped up heading back to Pittsburgh.

(Hurricanes 4, Devils 3)

-The 'Canes will be singin' a redemption song of sorts heading back to New Jersey after just about blowing it at home to the Devils on Monday night. By the 6:30 mark of the second period, Carolina led 3-0, but it was a tie game by the nine minute mark of the third. Jussi Jokinen saved the day though, tipping home the game-winner with 0.2 seconds left in regulation! Martin Brodeur was MAD (to say the least) after the game, hollering at the ref and throwing his stick around the ice. Why so serious? Well, Jokinen made a bit of contact with Brodeur outside of his crease just before the deciding goal crossed the line. According to the rulebook, if a player initiates contact with a goalie outside of his crease and a goal is scored, it should be called back (rule 69.4). It didn't look like it was on purpose to me though, so I think the officials made the right call. What a way to redeem yourselves as a team though, eh?

(Canucks 3, Blues 2 - OT)

-Alex Burrows had a breakout season with the Vancouver Canucks this year, and that has continued into the playoffs. On Monday night, a low shot from Burrows that beat St. Louis Blues goaltender Chris Mason with 19 seconds left in overtime sent the Vancouver Canucks into the second round of the playoffs with a 3-2 win, and a 4-0 series sweep. That was his second goal of the night and third in four games. Kyle Wellwood, another guy that had a big year in terms of goal scoring, opened the scoring with some sick moves (almost as sick as Mason's playoff beard), but the Blues made a game of it -- Brad Boyes and David Perron scoring in the tail end of the second period. The home crowd would go home disappointed though. So, I was off by two games in my prediction for this series ('Nucks in six); but that's because I wrongly assumed that the Blues would be riding some crazy momentum coming into their first playoff appearance since 2004 (they went 9-1-1 to end the season).

(Sharks 4, Ducks 3)

-The Presidents' Trophy winning San Jose Sharks looked almost like the Presidents' Trophy winning San Jose Sharks on Monday night, earning their first four leads of the series and finally beating the Anaheim Ducks by a score of 4-3. Until Patrick Marleau scored a power play goal midway through the third period, the Ducks had an answer to every Sharks goal and it looked like they might even make it a 3-0 series lead. BUT...the Sharks showed some life and I look forward to next game, to see if they've turned a new leaf here. I also want to see if the trend of home teams losing continues, just like in the Caps/Rangers series.

Tonight:

Boston @ Montreal - 5pm (Series: 3-0 BOS)
-The Bruins can sweep the series with a win.

Washington @ NY Rangers - 5pm (Series: 2-1 NYR)
-The road team has won every game so far.

Chicago @ Calgary - 8pm (Series: 2-1 CHI)
-Patrick Kane will be back, after missing game three with the flu

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Playoff recap, Day Six

Okay...so I was hoping to blog every day of the playoffs, but I hit my first snag this weekend when I was without internet access for a whole three days.

We'll start out with Monday night's action (and there's a recap of all the games that happened from Friday to Sunday down below...so technically, I didn't miss anything!)

(Boston 4, Montreal 2)

-The Habs opened the scoring, their first lead of the series, but the Bruins capitalized on a lucky bounce to tie it and wouldn't fall behind again in a 4-2 win. Former Canadien Michael Ryder potted the game-winner late in the second period (his fourth point this series) and the Bruins didn't skip a beat, taking a 3-0 series lead. The Bruins look like the real deal, I can't wait to see them take on a team like Pittsburgh. They can score, they can rough it up with the best of them and they've got strong goaltending. In fact, I really enjoy watching them play and I think a Boston/Philadelphia series would be crazy!

(Washington 4, NY Rangers 0)

-Quite an interesting series brewing between the Caps and the Rangers -- for one, home ice seems to be a disadvantage as the home team hasn't won through three games. A lot of people thought goaltending would be the downfall of the Washington Capitals but after Bruce Boudreau replaced Jose Theodore with rookie Simeon Varlamov, goaltending might be what keeps them alive! Varlamov earned his first career playoff shutout in his second career playoff game, and has let just one goal past him in 120 minutes. Will Sean Avery be the Rangers achilles' heel? He took four minor penalties and a punch to the head of Varlamov landed him a ten minute misconduct (and possible suspension?). What is it with Avery and goalies?

(Calgary 4, Chicago 2)

-The Calgary Flames built up a lead, and DIDN'T LOSE! That's a big first for the Flames who led by one with six minutes to go in game one, lost in overtime, and then blew a 2-0 lead in game two, losing 3-2. This one got chippy at the end, too. It looked more like the Pens/Flyers or the Bruins/Habs...things got very rough in the final few minutes. I love that about playoff hockey. Penalty minutes were 40-34 in favor of the Hawks in the third period, after the two teams combined for 12 minutes through the first 40! Game four will be a dandy!

Tonight:

Pittsburgh @ Philadelphia - 5pm (Series: 2-1 PIT)
Detroit @ Columbus - 5pm (Series: 2-0 DET)

NJ @ Carolina - 530pm (Series: 2-1 NJ)
Vancouver @ St. Louis - 6pm (Series: 3-0 VAN)

SJ @ Anaheim - 830pm (Series: 2-0 ANA)

Here's a quick of a summary of how things went during my online absence:

-Bill Guerin scored the overtime winner as Pittsburgh went up by a pair of games over the Philadelphia Flyers, but on Sunday Philly got revenge in the form of a 6-3 win.

-Tim Gleason's goal in the extra frame gave Carolina a 2-1 win over New Jersey and tied their best-of-seven series at one each; but on Sunday night, Travis Zajac scored in OT to put the Devils up by a game.

-The St. Louis Blues have been quite a disappointing addition to this year's postseason -- a 3-0 loss to Vancouver on Friday combined with a 3-2 loss at home on Sunday leave them facing elimination heading into game four.

-On Saturday, the Rangers beat the Caps 1-0 in a tight game that saw goalie Simeon Varlamov make his postseason debut. Varlamov managed to cut the Rangers goal scoring by three, but New York came out of it with a pair of away wins, and a 2-0 series lead.

-Also on Saturday, Detroit Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood earned his 14th career playoff shutout in a 4-0 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, moving him into fifth on the all-time list. The Red Wings looked great, going up 2-0 as the series shifts to Ohio.

-The Boston Bruins took it to the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, beating them 5-1 and chasing Carey Price from the crease after two periods. They took a 2-0 series lead into Montreal for Monday night's game, but found out they'd be playing without forward Milan Lucic who was suspended for one game for an incident near the end of Saturday's win.

-Calgary blew a 2-0 first period lead, losing 3-2 to the Chicago Blackhawks in the city of wind. Jonathan Toews potted the game winner, his second of the night as the 'Hawks won their second game of the series.

-And the Anaheim Ducks look more and more like they're going to upset the San Jose Sharks after a 3-2 win on Sunday -- the second team to win both road games to start a series (the Rangers being the other). Keep in mind, San Jose only lost FIVE regulation games this season at the Shark Tank.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Playoff recap, Day Two

Day two of the Stanley Cup playoffs saw, once again, most of the home teams winning. The exception was the San Jose Sharks, who are in tough against the Ducks...Here's a recap:

(Bruins 4, Canadiens 2)

This game had some of that grit I talked about in my playoff prediction blog, and the Habs even showed some too! Shots were 39-28 for Boston, penalty minutes were 32-28 for Montreal. So, a busy night for the guys wearing the stripes! One thing I've noticed this year is goals happening in bunches, and that was the case again here. A Carey Price miscue in the first period gave Phil Kessel his first goal of the playoffs and David Krejci made it a two-goal game 1:30 later. But just 1:38 after that, it was 2-1 after Chris Higgins found the back of the net. Alex Kovalev tied the game late in the second period with an absolute cannon from the right wing (the netcam view made me flinch!), but it was Zdeno Chara scoring the game-winner midway though the third. Phil Kessel potted an empty net goal for his second of the night and some Montreal players took exception...should be a good Game Two coming up!

(Red Wings 4, Blue Jackets 1)

The Detroit Red Wings survived the initial onslaught of the Columbus Blue Jackets (at one point, being outshot something like 7-1) and got some help from their depth players, earning that ever-important first win for a high seeded team. Jiri Hudler got the Wings on the board after a scoreless first period on a nice pass from Valtteri Filppula, but 52 seconds later it was a tie game. Jonathan Ericsson potted his first career playoff goal minutes later, under a minute later Niklas Kronwall made it 3-1, and in the third period Johan Franzen rounded out the scoring. Chris Osgood played to form which, as a Red Wings fan, was nice to see, making some huge saves early on. Hopefully I can catch the next game on TV, instead of a bad internet stream! Let's go Red Wings!!!!!

(Blackhawks 3, Flames 2 - OT)

It looked like the Calgary Flames might steal one in Chicago on Thursday night, it really did. Up 2-1 late in the third period, getting outshot pretty bad, but holding on. That is, until Martin Havlat got a second crack at a shot on Flames goalie Mikka Kiprusoff and tied the game with his first of the postseason. Calgary got two of their four shots that period after that, but with nothing doing, it was off to the first overtime period of this year's playoffs. It didn't last long though! Twelve seconds, to be exact. The Flames won the draw, gave the puck away in the neutral zone, Havlat took a pass in the slot and beat Kipper five-hole! There was a degree of goalie interference on the play, but not enough to call it back. Everyone but Red Wings fans will disagree with me on this, but if that was Tomas Holmstrom, it would have been called back!

(Ducks 2, Sharks 0)

I pegged this series as one of the better ones to watch in the first round, and it looks as though that will be the case. Despite being a great team, the Sharks haven't been able to make it happen in the playoffs, routinely going out in the second round. This year they are better than they've ever been...but instead of a lesser eighth seed, they have to play the gritty Anaheim Ducks. In game one, it was scoreless after two periods until Scott Niedermayer beat Evgeni Nabokov five minutes into the third. Then, at the tail end of a Sharks powerplay in the final four minutes...disaster! San Jose's blue liners messed up a d-to-d pass, Ryan Gezlaf, fresh out of the box, jumped on the loose puck and put the game out of reach. Burn!

Tonight:

Philadelphia @ Pittsburgh - 5 pm
Carolina @ NJ - 530 pm
St. Louis @ Vancouver 10 pm

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Playoff recap, Day One

The Stanley Cup playoffs got underway last night in Pittsburgh, Washington, New Jersey and Vancouver -- and all but one home team came away with wins.

Here's a recap, through my eyes:

(Penguins 4, Flyers 1)

The Pens beat the Flyers 4-1 in a game that looked more like a continuation of last year's Eastern Conference final. I thought Philadelphia was coming into this one with way more firepower than they had last year, but it certainly didn't look like it. On the other hand, the Penguins looked quite good and Marc-Andre Fleury shut the door, which is what has to happen for the Pens to be successful.

(Rangers 4, Capitals 3)

Brandon Dubinsky's highlight reel dangle midway through the third period lifted the visitors past the hometown Capitals 4-3 in game one of what I hope will be one of the better round one battles. If you didn't see the goal, you need to click here! Dubinsky dekes the pants off of Caps d-man Jeff Schultz (so bad that he falls) then he puts the puck past Jose Theodore for the go-ahead goal. Theodore, as expected, didn't look very good. It was a pretty exciting game though: the Caps opened the scoring in the second period, the Rangers scored three unanswered, Washington battled back...good stuff! This is going to be a good one.

(Devils 4, Hurricanes 1)

I half-expected the series to start like this, and I wasn't surprised to see Zach Parise's name on the scoresheet a couple of times by the end of the night (a goal and an assist). The Devils are a hard team to play against because they're responsible defensively and will make you pay if you slip up. It'll be interesting to see how the 'Canes respond, especially when the series shifts back to North Carolina.

(Canucks 2, Blues 1)

The biggest question this postseason for Canucks fans was would the Sedin twins finally show up for a playoff series...and so far, so good. Daniel Sedin opened the scoring, then assisted on Sami Salo's eventual game winner. His brother Henrik also drew an assist on that second goal. It's just one game though, but it's a good start. The Blues had some good pressure on a five-on-three power play at one point, but Roberto Luongo was there to shut the door. This could be a better series than I thought!

Tonight's lineup:

Montreal @ Boston - 5 pm
Columbus @ Detroit - 5 pm
Calgary @ Chicago - 6:30 pm
Anaheim @ San Jose 8:30 pm

I'll try my best to give a rundown of the playoff action as it happens...even on my days off if possible!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Playoff Picks

Well, it's that time of the year again.

The time of year when just sixteen teams remain, all vying for the chance to sip out of Lord Stanley's mug and reign supreme as Stanley Cup champions for the next season.

Being that the playoffs start tonight, I figured it was time to ponder my playoff prognostications...so here they are!

Starting out in the West:

Sharks vs. Ducks
(season series 4-2 SJ)

-San Jose may have the season series, but this one will be a war. If this series doesn't go to seven games, I'll be surprised. In fact, if it's a sweep either way, I'll be even more surprised. This is a make-or-break sort of year for the Sharks -- they've been a good team for a few years, but have yet to play to their full potential come the postseason. They've got scoring, they've got a solid blue line, they've got good goaltending; you don't win the Presidents' Trophy without that. As for the Ducks, they're a hard team to play against -- a talented but gritty group with good goaltending. For the most part they've still got the core of the group that won the 2007 Stanley Cup, which makes them dangerous, but maybe not dangerous enough.

*MY PICK: Sharks in seven


Wings vs. Jackets
(season series 3-2-1 Detroit; 1 overtime decision)

-Detroit's achilles' heel this season has been sloppy play in their own end and they've been punished a few times this season, including an 8-2 loss to Columbus in March. If the Red Wings stay disciplined and stick to their game plan, they'll be playing well into the spring. As for the Blue Jackets, they're making their postseason debut as a franchise with a lot to prove. Ken Hitchcock has turned this club around, Steve Mason has won them a lot of games and Rick Nash has become an even better player, but I don't see them beating Detroit over seven games.

*MY PICK: Wings in six


Canucks vs. Blues
(season series 2-2)

-The pressure is on the Vancouver Canucks to win this series. The pressure is on the Sedin twins to perform and put up good numbers. The pressure is on Roberto Luongo to maintain his status as one of, if not the best goalie in the world. As for the St. Louis Blues, there's no pressure. They went 9-1-1 to end the season, making what seemed like an improbable leap into the playoffs, their forwards are scoring, their goalie on fire. I'm going to say Vancouver, but I won't be surprised if I'm wrong.

*MY PICK: Canucks in six


Blackhawks vs. Flames
(season series 4-0 Chicago; one overtime decision)

-The Calgary Flames have been a team on the decline for weeks now, while the Chicago Blackhawks have been a solid team throughout the entire season. The Flames are battling injuries, the Hawks are healthy for the most part. There have been times where Miikka Kiprusoff looked completely unbeatable, but he's looked like a mere mortal at times this season. Jarome Iginla is the type of player that can change a series, but the Flames haven't been themselves lately. Chicago has improved a lot this season, and I think we'll see them moving on.

*MY PICK: Blackhawks in five


Taking a look at the Eastern Conference:

Bruins vs. Canadiens
(season series 5-0-1 Boston; one overtime, two shootout decisions)

-I can't wait for this series. The last game between these two teams was old time hockey to a tee. There was bad feelings between the two clubs, and it translated into some very feisty play. Just like the Western conference, this is a series where the eighth seed Habs could very well beat the number one Bruins, but it wouldn't really be an 'upset' per se. Half of the meetings between the two teams this season went to extra time or a shootout, but I think the Bruins are just too mean and gritty to lose this series.

*MY PICK: Boston in five


Capitals vs. Rangers
(season series 3-0-1 Washington; one overtime, one shootout decision)

-The Caps have all the pieces to make a serious run, except maybe for really strong goaltending. I think it'll be up to the Washington forwards to score enough goals to allow for a few weak ones in their own end. This will be another great series in the East -- the Rangers have talent up front and a strong goalie, but I think Washington's offense is just too strong.


*MY PICK: Caps in six


Devils vs. Hurricanes
(season series 3-1 Carolina)

-The Carolina Hurricanes have been one of the best teams in the NHL in the last month of the season and there's no better time to click than that. The Devils have the right mix of experience and talented young players though, and they're a disciplined club defensively, which I think gives them an advantage. Cam Ward and Marty Brodeur are two goalies that are capable of stealing games, but I think the Devils have the depth to once again take them past the first round.

*MY PICK: Devils in six


Penguins vs. Flyers
(season series 4-1 PIT; one overtime, one shootout decision)

-The rematch of last season's Eastern Conference final looks like it'll be a great one to watch, much like a few of the other ones in the East. In the series last year, the Flyers couldn't score...this year, they've got six 20+ goal scorers including four players that broke the 30-goal mark. The Penguins boast two of the top three scorers in the league, and also have six 20+ goal scorers (although that includes deadline acquisitions Bill Guerin and Chris Kunitz). What the Pens have though, that the Flyers don't is a group of young core players that are one season removed from a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Pens have a clear edge in goaltending, but if Marc-Andre Fleury goes down for any reason it'll be time to panic.

*MY PICK: Pens in six

Who knows, I might be completely wrong...but to be honest I'll be happy as long as I get one series right (see: Jim's playoff beard from last season)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Kerrzy’s Notebook: Raising the Bar

Last week we talked about the Linus Omark shootout goal that had the internet going nuts.

This week, Nicklas Lindberg of the International Hockey League's Port Huron Icehawks takes it to a whole other level.

Lindberg, perhaps inspired by Omark's 'cheeky' goal the week before, comes in on Kalamazoo Wings goaltender Joel Martin during a shootout in Port Huron last Tuesday and does something I've never seen before.

With one hand on his stick, he pulls the puck behind him with his backhand, grabs on with the other hand and deposits the puck behind a baffled Martin...with his stick still behind his back.

I think I've explained it pretty well, but you really must see this one to fully understand.



Crazy stuff! Speaking of Linus Omark, looks like he won't be calling Edmonton home for at least a couple of years. Reports have him signing a two-year deal, worth $2.6-million with Moscow Dynamo of the KHL.

I'll call it the 'Radulov scenario' -- Alex Radulov left the Nashville Predators because he thought he was worth more than what his entry-level contract was paying him (players on entry-level deals can make a maximum of around $850,000).

There's no way that Omark would have made the money he's getting in Russia if he decided to sign an entry-level deal with the Oilers for next season.

He might just wait it out until he's 25, when he'd be able to sign a regular contract. I guess we'll just have to wait and see!

Make it Four!

Jared Staal joined his older brothers Jordan, Marc and Eric in the world of professional hockey last week, signing on to play with the San Antonio Rampage.

The youngest Staal made the jump after his Sudbury Wolves were eliminated from the first round of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs.

He had 19 goals and 52 points in 67 games for the Wolves and is a product of the Phoenix Coyotes, who drafted him in the second round of the 2008 NHL entry draft.

Jordan Staal is a key piece of the puzzle in Pittsburgh, Marc patrols the blue line for the New York Rangers and Eric, the oldest, is a four-time 30+ goal scorer with the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Thunder Bay, Ontario, crew are two short of the six Sutter brothers from Viking, Alberta, that made the NHL...but they're pretty darn close!

What a family!

Making a game plan

Sometimes when journalists write headlines, the idea they're trying to convey doesn't quite shine through like they planned.

Case and point -- this headline from the Toronto Star: "Wilson, Burke to use Leafs model for Team U.S.A."

Why do I think that's funny, Leafs fans might ask. Well, (and Ron Wilson and Brian Burke might want to pay attention to this) the "Leafs model" is working SO WELL for the Maple Laughs that I'm just not sure it's the best method.

For example, Toronto hasn't made the playoffs since 2004 and will fall well short of the mark this season too. In fact, the Leafs are dead last in the Northeast division!

If the Maple Leaf model doesn't work out for Team USA, maybe they'll try the international equivalent for the next Olympics...Kazakhstan?

I'm not mad...

We've all heard this phrase at one point or another in our lives -- "I'm not mad...I'm just disappointed."

Ouch!

That always cuts deeper than if the person saying it had just told you they were mad at you. Why? Who knows.

It's one of those psychological games used to make you feel a lot worse about something. Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock successfully employed this tactic to his players last week after a 5-4 home loss to the St. Louis Blues -- the team's third straight loss.

"Mad is an interesting word," Babcock said. "I'm disappointed in the group right now. This is very un-Red Wing-like."

I'm not mad - I'm just disappointed. Ouch. Very un-Red Wing-like. Double ouch.

Since that game, the Wings won back-to-back contests, setting a couple of milestones along the way:

Detroit is the third team in NHL history to win 50+ games in four straight seasons, and Mike Babcock became the first coach ever to win 50+ games in his first four seasons with a club.

So remember everyone -- if you're really mad about something, just say you're more disappointed than mad. Works like a charm!

Avery up to his old tricks?

Sean Avery was given a second chance to play in the NHL after some questionable conduct earlier in the season landed him in a mess of trouble with the league and with his former team, the Dallas Stars.

The New York Rangers saw something they liked though, and decided to bring him back for another go...and for the most part, he's stayed out of trouble.

Last week though, a slight lapse in judgment against the Boston Bruins landed one of his teammates a Tim Thomas blocker to the chops.

During a TV timeout, Avery skates past Thomas, who is at the blue line stretching, and clips the back of his helmet with his stick. This starts quite a flurry of action and Avery is nowhere to be seen.

Check it out for yourself:


Avery will want us all to think that it was an honest mistake, but his track record isn't very good when it comes to this kind of stuff.

What do you think? Send me an email ! I'll include the best (or any) responses in next week's blog

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Cheeky Penalties!

The Edmonton Oilers might be going through a bit of a slump right now, but Oilers prospect Linus Omark is the latest internet sensation thanks to hockey’s response to the “cheeky penalty” in soccer.

Omark charted some new territory when it comes to the shootout in an exhibition game between his native Sweden and Switzerland.

He skates in at an angle, cuts across the front of the net and gets the goalie to bite with a simple deke – before lightly flicking the puck up and over the sprawling netminder.






Cheeky!

There have been some really nice shootout goals in the NHL since they brought that part of the game into action, but this is the first time I’ve seen someone pull, or try to pull this move.

I’m going to guess that Omark watches a bit of soccer.

Here’s Senegalese footballer El Hadji Diouf with an example of the soccer version of the cheeky penalty:






If pulled off successfully, this is a play that can leave a goalie quite embarrassed. Of course, that’s not always how it turns out.






Back to the topic at hand though: Linus Omark!

The Oilers drafted him inthe fourth round of the 2007 NHL entry draft. Right now, the 22-year-old plays for Lilea HF in the Swedish Elite League and is four points back of the league
lead in scoring (23 goals and 55 points in 53 games).

The scouting report on Omark at Hockey’s Future is a good one, and says he’s planning on moving to North America next season, once his contract in Sweden is up. Maybe something
to look forward to for Oil fans?

Here’s another sick goal by Omark…look how he takes the hit to make the (unreal) play!






The Beard is Back!

The Detroit Red Wings are looking to a long-standing tradition in hockey for their playoff theme as they look to repeat as Stanley Cup champions this spring – the playoff beard.

Those of you that have been with iNews880.com from the beginning might remember me dabbling with the playoff beard last year during the Wings Cup run (Looking back, I can’t believe I did that, nor can I believe how long it got!).

This year marks the 18th straight trip to the postseason for Detroit – “Here we grow again,” said Red Wings Senior Vice President of Business Affairs Steve Violetta at a lunch where
they announced the theme.

The Wings have had their struggles in the second half of the season, but go into the playoffs looking to become the first team to win back-to-back Stanley Cups since they did it in
1997 and 1998.

Lets go Red Wings!!!!!

Money Back Guarantee

Last week we had a weird story from NCAA women’s basketball, this week – a cool one.

Oklahoma University star centre Courtney Paris has promised to pay back her scholarship if the Sooners don’t take home the national championship.

Scholarship money up here in Canada isn’t like scholarship money down south though – if OU loses, Paris will be giving back almost $64,000, according to reports!

The Sooners are taking on the Louisville Cardinals this Sunday in Final Four action. The other game pits Stanford against Connecticut.

Talk about a costly loss! And for those of you who think Courtney Paris might not pay up, her
sister/teammate Ashley Paris told the Daily Oklahoman:

“If anything horrible goes wrong, I’ll hold her accountable for paying it back.”

Go Sooners?

Role Models

Like it or not, professional athletes are seen as role models for countless kids around the
world.

Recently, Brazilian soccer legend Pele used a former rival’s name when talking about players that are bad examples to the youth…and Diego Maradona, now the manager of Argentina, had a
very interesting reply.

Setanta Sports reports that Maradona, who had drug and alcohol issues over the course of his career, responded by saying “Pele lost his virginity to a man.”

What?! Is that your best comeback? The thing that made me laugh was another account of the event that quoted him as saying Pele “made his debut with a bloke.” His debut?!

For his part, Pele says this is just a rumor that Maradona started out of jealousy. I don’t even really know what to say about this whole thing…I hope the feud continues!

Oh, what a soap opera this could turn into!