Friday, June 26, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: NHL lets its Backbone Slide (again)

If you're looking for backbone, you won't find any at NHL headquarters.

A day after it was revealed the league flip-flopped on Boston's opponent in this year's Winter Classic because NBC was upset about a Bruins/Capitals matchup - they've backed down again!

To please the broadcast giant that pays nothing to show its games (while everyone else pays an arm and a leg), the NHL has dropped the second game in a proposed Winter Classic doubleheader, which was to be played at Calgary's McMahon stadium.

Sports Illustrated reports NBC "had expressed concern that (the Calgary game) would diminish the impact of the Boston-Philadelphia match in Fenway Park."

TSN says the proposed game was shot down by the league's competition committee, which is made up of five players, five team executives, NHL vice-president Colin Campbell and NHLPA director Glenn Healy.

The rumours of a second Winter Classic for 2010 first surfaced about a week ago on ESPN , with the Toronto Maple Leafs arising as the likely opponent. Forgetting the fact that Calgary/Toronto sounds like a terribly dull matchup, it would have been nice to see another Winter Classic in Canada (finally).

It sounds like there will be some kind of special event in a Canadian city this season though, but it'll mean nothing to you unless you live in Montreal.

Word is, the Montreal Canadiens, not quite done celebrating their 100th season, will play at Olympic Stadium in late November under the guise of "commemorating the first game in franchise history."

What would be a more fitting tribute to the roots of a stories franchise than playing a game in a multi-purpose stadium under a roof? Oh boy, how exciting! Montreal gets an almost Winter Classic - an indoor/outdoor game!!!!!

There's nothing "special" about holding a game at Olympic Stadium. Nothing at all. Basically it's just a cash cow for the Habs, who can sell three-times as many tickets as they can at the Bell Centre by playing there.

Oh, and just incase you think the NHL doesn't have its finger on the pulse - Sports Illustrated also reports they plan to pit the Pittsburgh Penguins against the Washington Capitals six days after the Olympic gold medal game to take advantage of all the excitement...and there'll probably be a concert.

Yeah, there's nothing like a concert from some semi-popular act that only a third of the crowd likes to really get people excited for a hockey game.

Assuming this will be an afternoon NBC game, I thought the Capitals were bad for ratings?

Who's in charge of the NHL, Gary Bettman or Jeff Zucker ?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Bending Over Backwards

If what I'm about to tell you is true, it's just another example of the National Hockey League bending over backwards to please a company that doesn't even pay them for the rights to broadcast their games.

It's long been rumoured that the Boston Bruins will host the Washington Capitals at Fenway Park in the opening game of what is now apparently a Winter Classic doubleheader - but there are now reports to the contrary!

Apparently, the NBC (who basically gets to broadcast games for free, remember) is upset with that matchup and wants the Philadelphia Flyers instead...and the NHL said okay! WHAT?!

It seems the NBC wasn't happy with the ratings the Capitals drew during their first round series with the New York Rangers in this year's playoffs, so they were weary about featuring them in their biggest hockey telecast of the season.

This, despite the fact that Washington is led by the league's reigning two-time MVP, who is hands-down one of the most exciting, entertaining players, on and off the ice, in the entire league.

Maybe the Rangers were the reason no one cared about that series - they're not exactly the most exciting team in sports. And have they already forgotten how brutal Philly looked in their opening round series? The team with six 20+ goal scorers couldn't buy a goal in the playoffs this year.

You're probably asking yourself 'what's the compromise in all of this?'

To make it look like they didn't just completely roll over on this one, the Capitals remain a possible opponent for the New York Rangers for a game that could be played at Yankee Stadium in 2011.

Yeah, you heard right. The Capitals will be considered for a game that isn't a certainty as of right now. Way to stick it to 'em Gary!

I wish the NHL would stop catering so hard to a company that doesn't pay a dime for some of the most exciting hockey we've seen in years. It's actually getting a wee bit pathetic.

If NBC said jump, what do you think the NHL would say? I think we've all got a pretty good idea.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: To Grunt or Not to Grunt

Wimbledon got underway this week, but not without a bit of controversy!

This comes courtesy of the BBC over in London:

Former Wimbledon champion-turned-commentator Michael Stich talked his way into a bit of trouble this weekend on the topic of...YOU GUESSED IT - the loud grunting of many of the game's top female athletes.

Seems like a normal thing to argue about, doesn't it?

Either way, the 40-year-old German says the noise 'detracted from the players 'sex appeal,' adding - and I quote - "Just play it back to the women. It sounds disgusting, ugly, unsexy!"

Wow! Obviously this guy is just out to stir up a little controversy. Some of the women DO grunt fairly loudly, but I think that's taking it a bit far!

As for Stich, he basically called the entire women's side of Wimbledon prostitutes, saying they are "just there to sell sex." That's pretty much the job description of a prostitute isn't it?

I think that's at LEAST a little bit harsh, don't you? Sure, some female tennis players are known more for their looks than their skill...but come on!

There's just something about the British media that I love! The article is almost as funny as the story itself in some parts. For example:

Former Wimbledon referee Alan Mills added that there was "nothing in the rules" to stop players grunting. Thanks for clearing that up!

It gets worse - although Stich this only jokingly. Stich says the only way of stopping the grunting from women shoot them.

Of course! You can insert your own joke there!


On Monday, I was given the opportunity to host 630 CHED's Inside Sports and I featured this bit on the show.

You can listen to that here:

I was planning to do up a little blog about the process of going in for my first ever talk show experience, but I didn't get around to it. Here's a little rundown of how it went:

I talked to Oilers radio analyst Bob Stauffer about what the Oil might do at the upcoming NHL entry draft, which was a great conversation and still with hockey we also heard from E.J. McGuire, the director of NHL Central Scouting.

The middle hour of the show was all football - in the first half hour we heard from Edmonton Eskimos head coach Richie Hall and quarterback Ricky Ray. Then, Eskimos color guy Dave Campbell joined us over the phone (while he did his groceries, what a guy!) to talk about how the team is shaping up going into the regular season.

In the third hour (where I felt I was really hittin' my stride!) Derek Van Diest of the Edmonton Sun joined us to talk soccer, mainly the big game coming to Commonwealth Stadium this summer between Everton and River Plate. We had a good talk about some other topics in the world of soccer, including the unruly spending of some of Europe's bigger clubs.

To wrap things up, I had a member of Canada's national sledge hockey team join us to chat about the game and about the preparations heading into the 2010 Paralympics!

All in all it was a great time, I had a lot of fun and I hope I was able to entertain the masses!

If you'd like to have a listen to any of those interviews, you can do so by clicking HERE!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Winter Classic Doubleheader?

It looks like we could be in for not one, but two Winter Classics come New Years day.

ESPN is reporting the Calgary Flames will play host the back end of a January 1st, 2010 doubleheader, according to sources. The game will be played at McMahon Stadium, home of the Stampeders, which has been expanded to seat 45,000 for the 2009 Grey Cup.

The NHL hasn't said either way who will host the other game, but it's believed the Boston Bruins and the Washington Capitals will faceoff at the historic Fenway Park.

According to Slam! Sports, Flames president Ken King has "heard some rumblings" but wouldn't confirm the reports. The league says it will announce its plans for the next Winter Classic in mid-July.

So - who would Calgary play in a potential outdoor game?

Since the Oilers have had their moment in the sun (albeit the winter sun), the speculation is that it'll be a team like Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal. The Canucks are an obvious choice because they're also in the Northwest Division, but the thinking for the other two is that it'll mean a "bigger media market" for the game.

Hold on a second; there are people that think hockey fans in Eastern Canada would take a game with zero rivalry over a game with a huge rivalry? A game between Calgary and Toronto or Montreal sounds boring to me, because there's hardly any history between the teams. They barely ever play each other!

Say the game was in Toronto, they wouldn't say "lets bring in Calgary so that more people out west will watch!" They'd look for Toronto's biggest rival, because Canadians love a good rivalry!

Over the last few years, the Oilers and Flames have made a habit of meeting in New Years Eve why not keep that going?

I really like this idea though, because what's almost as Canadian as hockey or outdoor hockey? Doubleheader hockey!

Let Kerrzy read it to you here:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Awards Night!

The 2008-09 NHL season is officially over and it's not quite time for the Entry Draft or Free Agency...which means it's time for the NHL Awards show! This year, it's taking place in Las Vegas, which could wind up being a PR nightmare for the league if the players don't behave themselves...

Here are my picks:

The award: Hart Trophy (Most Valuable Player)

The nominees: Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings; Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins; Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals.

My pick: Evgeni Malkin - The 22-year-old had a dream season; an Art Ross trophy as the league's top scorer with 113 points in the regular season and the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP with 36 points in the just can't really argue with that. When the Penguins were forced to play without Sidney Crosby in 2007-08, Malkin flourished, but he's been overshadowed by Crosby and Alex Ovechkin thus far in his career. I think this is his time to shine.

The award: Lester B. Pearson Award (Top Player as voted by NHLPA)

The nominees: Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings; Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins; Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals.

My pick: Pavel Datsyuk - You can't argue with Evgeni Malkin's statistics when it comes to the Hart Trophy, but I have a feeling that when the players association voted they gave Datsyuk the nod. He's one of the most skilled, complete players in the league right now and an absolute joy to watch.

The award: James Norris Memorial Trophy (Top Defenceman)

The nominees: Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins; Mike Green, Washington Capitals; Nicklas Lidstrom, Detroit Red Wings.

My pick: Nick Lidstrom - I don't think there is a better, more consistent defenceman in the NHL than Nick Lidstrom and if there's a guy that is close, it's Zdeno Chara. Lidstrom is one of those guys who his coach wants on the ice in every situation. He's the rock of Detroit's power play, he's one of their best penalty killers and at even-strength - he's your guy! At 39 it's amazing that he's still as dominant as he is.

The award: Calder Memorial Trophy (Top Rookie)

The nominees: Steve Mason, Columbus Blue Jackets; Bobby Ryan, Anaheim Ducks; Kris Versteeg, Chicago Blackhawks.

My pick: Steve Mason - This is a tough one and I think it comes down to Mason and Bobby Ryan, but I think you have to go with the goalie. He had 33 wins this season, led the league in shutouts with 10 and had the second best goals against average, behind only Tim Thomas. Bobby Ryan had a remarkable season too, leading all rookies in scoring with 31 goals and 57 points in 64 games, but I just feel like the shutouts are more impressive than the goals.

The award: Vezina Trophy (Top Goaltender)

The nominees: Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota Wild; Steve Mason, Columbus Blue Jackets; Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins.

My pick: Tim Thomas - Thomas led the league in GAA and save percentage and was a big part of the success of the Boston Bruins this season. Steve Mason and Nik Backstrom have the edge in shutouts, but I feel like this is Thomas' year.

The award: Frank Selke Trophy (Top Defensive Forward)

The nominees: Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings; Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks; Mike Richards, Philadelphia Flyers.

My pick: Pavel Datsyuk - No one is more tenacious at both ends of the ice than Pavel Datsyuk. He won it last year and the only thing that's changed is he might be even better defensively now than he was last year. A lot of the offence generated by Datsyuk comes on the backcheck or when he strips an opposing defenceman of the puck in his own end. Mike Richards is the up-and-coming Selke candidate, but I'm going with Datsyuk.

The award: Lady Byng Memorial Trophy (Sportsmanship and Gentlemanly Play)

The nominees: Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings; Zach Parise, New Jersey Devils; Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning.

My pick: Pavel Datsyuk - This is a tough one, I think each of the players nominated could easily take it home. I'm going with Datsyuk though, because that's just what I'd like to see! Actually, what I'd like to see is another of his funny acceptance speeches ("I'd like to speech longer, but my english is short").

The award: Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy (Sportsmanship and Dedication to Hockey)

The nominees: Chris Chelios, Detroit Red Wings; Steve Sullivan, Nashville Predators, Richard Zednik, Florida Panthers.

My pick: Steve Sullivan - After not playing since 2007, Sullivan came back for 41 games this season and put up 32 points. That is very impressive in my books. All of the guys nominated have good stories, but I think Sullivan will get the nod. He was a true inspiration to those around him this season.

The award: Jack Adams Trophy (Coach of the Year)

The nominees: Claude Julien, Boston Bruins; Todd McLellan, San Jose Sharks; Andy Murray, St. Louis Blues.

My pick: Todd McLellan - McLellan led the Sharks to a 53-18-11 record with a Presidents' Trophy in his first season as a coach this year. The other nominees had strong seasons too - Claude Julien took the Bruins from eighth in the East last year to first place and Andy Murray took the St. Louis Blues from second last in the West to sixth this season. Overall though, I think having that kind of success in your first season as a head coach is just too impressive.

Lets see how I do!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: NHL to Join Champions League?

What's the next step for the National Hockey League?

The NHL has long been recognized as the best professional hockey league in the world, but have you ever wondered how the top teams in our league would do against the top teams in Europe in a big game?

Well, it looks like the NHL is looking into joining the Champions Hockey League.

What's that, you ask? I remember asking myself the very same question while channel surfing last year and finding a Champions Hockey League game.

So I fired up the laptop and, as it turned out, the CHL (not to be confused with the KHL) was in its first year and is sort of modelled after soccer's Champions League. Basically, the top hockey clubs in Europe play off for the opportunity to be crowned European champions.

The winner is awarded the Silver Stone Trophy (which has been handed out to the top team in Europe since 1997) and they earn a spot in the Victoria Cup, where they face off against an NHL team.

The New York Rangers beat Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the inaugural Victoria Cup; this September it'll be the Chicago Blackhawks and the ZSC Lions. The IIHF wants the Stanley Cup champion to play in the winner-takes-all game, but so far the NHL has said no.

Unfortunately, due to the global economic crisis, the 2009-10 Champions Hockey League season has been cancelled, but the IIHF says it WILL be back.

The IIHF also states in a press release that the NHL has "declared interested to join" the league.

How that'll work though, I have no idea.

Last year, the group stages ran for three days in October, two days in November and one day in December; the semi-finals went one day in December and one in January and the finals were near the end of January.

If the NHL team(s) had to play in the group stages, they'd somehow have to find time during the busy regular season to play these games, whether here in North America or over in Europe. You'd almost think they'd have to schedule it during the summer, but I don't see that working either.

So it seems like an unlikely prospect, but it's defintiely an interesting thought! One way it could almost work is if they made a North American pool, with the top few teams in the NHL and the AHL making up the group. But even then, I just don't see it happening...

What do you think, would you like to see more interaction between the top-level clubs in Europe and the best teams in North America?

Let Kerrzy read it to you here:

Kerrzy's Notebook: Self-Promotion to Avoid Demotion

Most professional athletes rely on their on-field/on-ice/on-turf performance to garner interest at the end of a contract. Not English soccer player Michael Owen though, he relies on brochures...

Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

In 2005 Newcastle United shelled out over $31-million (CAN) to buy the striker from Real Madrid, but since then, the one-time European Footballer of the Year has suffered a series of injuries that limited him to under 40 games in the three seasons after that.

Things have since turned around for the 29-year-old on the goal scoring front, but his team was relegated from the Premier League this season, his contract is up...and he wants back in!

So, the company representing Owen has put together a 34-page "brochure" highlighting the strengths of the former Liverpool striker and sent it to a select group of top-flight Premier League clubs.

First of all, if it's 34-pages long can you really call it a brochure? That's a book! Secondly, if you're that good, shouldn't the top-flight clubs have you on their radar already?

In addition to glossy photos and high praise, the document (yeah, I'm done calling it a brochure) apparently comes with a medical report and answers to frequently asked questions about Owen.

That's another part of this I find funny. What kind of FAQ's could that possibly include?

Q: Is Michael Owen sometimes late for practise?
A: On the contrary, Michael Owen is incredibly punctual!

Q: Is Michael Owen a radioactive robot, sent to earth to destroy mankind?
A: No, in fact Michael Owen is a healthy human being and professional footballer with a penchant for scoring goals.

Well Mike, I hope it works out for ya; in fact, I'm thinking I'll give it a shot when I make my next career move!

For some more laughs at the expense of athletes, check out how UCLA redshirt quarterback Chris Forcier announced that he is changing schools.

FACT: You might find it funny!

Let Kerrzy read it to you here:

Friday, June 12, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Pens take the Cup!

For just the third time in the NHL's history, the road team came out on top in game seven of the Stanley Cup Final. So Sid the Kid finally has his name on the Cup and the Pens get the revenge they hoped for after losing to the Wings on home ice last season.

Here's the recap:

(Penguins 2, Red Wings 1)

It wasn't Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin scoring the big goals for the Penguins in the biggest game of the season - it was Max Talbot.

The speedy grinder scored both of Pittsburgh's goals in the second period - one coming off a brutal giveaway by Detroit defenceman Brad Stuart, the other on a two-on-one midway through the middle frame.

When either of these teams is leading after two periods, especially by a pair of goals, they're virtually unbeatable.

Detroit really came at Pittsburgh late in the second and late in the third, but Marc-Andre Fleury stood tall between the pipes - and got some help from those pipes too. After Jonathan Ericsson beat him with a point shot about 14 minutes into the third, Nik Kronwall hit the crossbar. Fleury also came up big in the final seconds, with a big save on Wings captain Nick Lidstrom...

Has Fleury finally shaken the curse of the "big game bobbles" that has followed him around since the 2004 World Juniors?

Who doesn't remember seeing him shoot the puck off his defenceman's butt and into his own net? That one burned. In last year's SCF, there was that one goal where the puck sat on the ice behind him until he sat down and knocked it into his own net.

This year, he came out on top. Good for him.

No one else dominated the scoresheet in these playoffs like the often-overshadowed Evgeni Malkin, and he's another player who is finally getting his moment in the sun.

The 22-year-old is the first ever Russian and just the third European (behind Henrik Zetterberg and Nick Lidstrom) to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

Malkin put up 36 points in 24 games during this Cup run, which is the sixth-highest total ever behind only Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. Not many players have won the regular season and playoff scoring races in the same year, either. Pretty impressive.

And finally, at 21-years-old Sidney Crosby becomes the youngest player to captain a Stanley Cup winning team, and you know Gary Bettman couldn't be happier!

One more thing - earlier in this post I mentioned the Marc-Andre Fleury "big game bobble" curse. Ty Conklin has now been on the losing end of three Stanley Cup Finals and a conference final as a backup goalie.

Is there a Ty Conklin curse?

Congrats to the Hershey Bears as well, who won the AHL's Calder Cup with a 4-1 win over the Manitoba Moose on Friday night, also on the road. Looks like there'll be lots of parties in PA this weekend!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: From Russia to Philly

"Sugar" Ray Emery is headed back to a rink near you!

The controversial former Ottawa Senators netminder is making his return to the NHL this season after signing a one-year, $1.5-million deal with the Philadelphia Flyers.

It makes sense that the grittiest goalie in the game is suiting up with a team like the Flyers, don't you think?

Emery had a tough run in his last NHL season: he was late for practise a few times which became a huge story, he was involved in a few altercations with teammates and he was eventually placed on waivers.

Rather than toil in the minors, the Hamilton native spent last season plying his trade over in Russia's Continental Hockey League with Mytishchi Atlant (or, Atlant Moscow).

Emery had a pretty successful season in Russia, going 22-8-0, but even there he got negative attention for fighting with a team trainer on the bench during one game.

Like I said, he's had a tough couple of seasons, but I think this is a good place for Ray Emery to get a fresh start. It just seems to me like he'd be the kind of guy the people of Philadelphia could really rally behind.

Why do I think that? Well, he's got the potential to be a standout goalie, he's a tough competitor and he's not a very big cap hit. The other thing I like about the guy is he's an interesting character, love him or hate him.

As long as he can stay away from the negative limelight that ultimately chased him out of Ottawa, I think he'll be a good fit in Philly.

Staying out of the negative stuff could be easier said than done, though.

But seriously, how can you not love this guy? Check out these fight videos:

Speaking of the Senators, how crazy would it be if the Oilers wound up snagging Dany Heatley this summer? He's apparently upset with his role in Ottawa (could it be all the politics?) and wants out.

I've often thought the one thing the Edmonton Oilers lack these days is a star player they can really lean on to score big goals. Heatley is that guy: since the lockout, he has 180 goals and 362 points in 317 games.

Could we use some of that firepower here in the City of Champions? You bet we could.
Let Kerrzy read it to you here:

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Playoff recap, Day 45

Well, it's what everyone but me wants - the Stanley Cup Final is going to a seventh and deciding game.

By Friday night, or perhaps early Saturday morning, one team will be celebrating and the other will sit dejected on the other end of the ice.

Here's the recap:

(Penguins 2, Red Wings 1)

Just like in game five, the Pittsburgh Penguins had a far better start than the Red Wings, but this time it didn't end up being a romp for Detroit.

In fact, the Wings were held to just three shots in the first period and 12 through two periods by a tenacious Penguins team.

It's happened so often in this series that role players have stepped up for their respective side and on Tuesday night it was Jordan Staal coming through with the game's opening goal within the first minute of the second period, and Tyler Kennedy potting the game-winner in the third.

Detroit had their chances, especially near the end of the game, but they took far too long to get going offensively in this one.

It's truly amazing how the home team has played so well in their own barn in this series. When Friday night rolls around it'll be interesting to see who comes out on top.

If Pittsburgh can bounce back from a 5-0 blowout in game five, the Red Wings can just as easily come out with guns blazing in game seven.

If they want to win though, they're going to have to come out with more jump than they did on Tuesday.

AND one note on the other battle raging on in the NHL right now:

It looks like if Jim Balsillie wins his bid to buy the Phoenix Coyotes, he'll be paying a hefty price. Judge Redfield T. Baum is suggesting there could be a relocation fee paid to the NHL in any potential transaction.

Sources say that fee could be somewhere in the region of $100-million. Will that deter the Blackberry boss from pursuing his dreams of a seventh Canadian NHL club?

We'll see!
Let Kerrzy read it to you here:

Kerrzy's Notebook: Will a former Devil be the newest Flame?

Expect a big announcement today out of New Jersey.

Late Monday night, reports surfaced out of Calgary that Brent Sutter is stepping down as head coach of the New Jersey Devils, leaving the door wide open for him to join his older brother Darryl in Calgary.

Earlier this spring, the Flames fired "Iron" Mike Keenan after another disappointing first round exit and Flames general manager Darryl Sutter has been his usual self when asked about possible replacements, not saying a whole lot.

Under Brent Sutter the Devils won an Atlantic division title, despite the absence of Martin Brodeur for a good chunk of the season, but lost to the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

In two seasons, Sutter compiled a record of 97-56-11 behind the bench with two first-round exits from the playoffs.

During the off-season, he has publicly stated that his return to New Jersey would be based on family and business commitments in Red Deer (he spent eight seasons as the owner, president, GM and coach of the WHL's Red Deer Rebels before making the hop to the NHL).

In a press conference in late May, Darryl Sutter proclaimed "Right now, I'm the best one," when asked about possible candidates to replace Keenan. He went on to say "There are three guys who are excellent (but) I won't tell you who they are."

The Flames GM made it clear that if, at the end of his search, he thought he was the best candidate, he would be the new coach.

It's not a real stretch that one of those three guys Darryl Sutter spoke of could his brother Brent. I mean, 41 games over .500 in two seasons is pretty impressive. Especially when you consider his number one goalie was on the shelf for most of this past season.

Was the elder Sutter waiting to see if his younger brother was available before making a move? I'm sure we'll find out soon enough.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Playoff recap, Day 44

After both teams won their home games to start the series, the Detroit Red Wings had to win game five at The Joe, and they did so emphatically...

Here's the recap:

(Red Wings 5, Penguins 0)

Remember in the second period of game four when the Penguins scored three times in just under six minutes?

In game five it was Detroit scoring three times in just over six minutes, part of a four goal second period. After Dan Cleary made it 1-0 in the first period, Valtteri Filppula, Nik Kronwall and Brian Rafalski all beat Marc-Andre Fleury.

Fleury wouldn't finish the game, getting pulled for the first time in a long time after Henrik Zetterberg made it 5-0 with his 11th goal of the playoffs.

After watching the first five to ten minutes of this game, if you had told me that Detroit was going to win 5-0, I wouldn't have believed you.

Pittsburgh came out flying and had immense pressure early on, but the Red Wings managed to hold their ground and then take this game over.

Detroit just looked like a different team out there, a combination of rest and the fact that Pavel Datsyuk was back in the lineup after not having played since May 19th.

Datsyuk set up the first and fourth goals, was a plus two and played the third most minutes among Red Wing forwards on Saturday night - not bad for a guy that could be playing with a broken foot.

With the 22-save shutout, Chris Osgood moves into fourth on the all-time playoff shutout list with 15, tied with Frank Brimsek.

Also, when Osgood fired a pass up to Marian Hossa, who laid it off to Filppula for the game's second goal, it was the first time in six years that a goalie has picked up an assist in the Stanley Cup Final.

For the first time in this series, the home team won by more than two goals and the winning team had the edge in shots. But, will the home team continue to win each game until it comes down to a game seven in Detroit, or will it be all over on Tuesday?

I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Don't Apologize Alex!

On Friday, Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Alex Rios issued an apology to his fans, his team and his teammates for something he says he "should never have done."

Don't worry Toronto fans - though it sounds like the type of apology baseball fans have become accustomed to, it has nothing to do with steroids!

So what's all the fuss about?

Well, a video surfaced on YouTube showing a tuxedo-clad Rios getting harassed by a grown man while trying to leave a gala put on by the Jays Care Foundation. Rios issued that apology because he responded like a lot of us would.

According to reports, the whole thing started when Rios "brushed off" a kid who wanted an autograph. As he walked to his car, this old man yelled out to him "The way you played today Alex, you should be lucky someone wants your autograph!"

"The way you played today" refers to Rios setting a Blue Jays record with a seventh consecutive strikeout in a heartbreaking 6-5 loss to the LA Angels, part of an 0-for-10 slump at the plate. Needless to say, it had been a frustrating day.

Rios responded with a couple of swear-words, or one swear word a couple of times, and then this idiot went on to call him a "bum" and yelled "remember where you came from!"

Okay, first of all: It's a school night. What is a kid doing wandering around Toronto late on a Thursday night? Was that his dad in the video? If so, I'm not surprised Rios snubbed his autograph request. The apple doesn't fall far from the three, if you know what I'm saying.

Secondly, I can't STAND people that harass celebrities or athletes and then play the victim when the person they're bothering snaps (I'm looking at you TMZ). I can't stand it. Who's the bum? The guy getting paid millions of dollars to play baseball, or the chump on the street talkin' smack?

Third of all - what does the guy mean when he says "remember where you came from?" What does being born in Coffee, Alabama, have to do with striking out five times in one game?

Maybe I'm going against the grain here, but I honestly don't think Alex Rios should have apologized.

What he said to the guy wasn't even that bad. He didn't say anything you haven't heard before, I guarantee you that. In fact, I can definitely think of some far worse things he could have said!

Here's how I see it: If you're just minding your own business and wind up on the end of some unprovoked verbal abuse, there's nothing wrong with telling that person where to go.

Pro athlete or not, Alex Rios shouldn't have to put up with that any more than you or I should.

And if any kids happened to see the video, which has since been yanked from YouTube, there's even a great lesson to be learned:

If some chump tries to bully you, stand up for yourself!

Let Kerrzy read it to you here:

Kerrzy's Notebook: ANOTHER Toronto team?!

Investors just seem to be lining up to get a new NHL franchise in Ontario.

Jim Balsillie has tried three times (with the third try still in court) to get a current team moved to Hamilton, but a NEW team could be on the horizon for the Toronto area (and it's got not nothing to do with the Blackberry boss).

A group from that city is proposing a brand new franchise, the Toronto Legacy, in time for the 2012-13 season. It seems money isn't a problem either - they're hinting that there's already $1-billion worth of financing in place.

Andrew Lopez, founder of The Toronto Legacy Group, laid out the vision for the proposed team at a news conference on Friday, which includes a 30,000 seat arena in the north end of the Greater Toronto area.

To sweeten the deal, the group says 25 per cent of its annual net profits will be divided between charities and non-profit organizations.

If current NHL teams in that region don't want ONE more franchise coming into their territory, how pumped do you suppose they are about the potential of TWO coming in? Not very, is my guess!

It would send shockwaves through the entire hockey industry...all the major sports networks would suddenly have to split their Toronto-first coverage a few ways; will there even be time for the rest of the Canadian team coverage??

The name "Legacy" is fitting for the people of Toronto though - that's all they've got when it comes to hockey (can anybody say 1967?)!

Let Kerrzy read it to you here:

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Playoff recap, Day 43

Well, the Stanley Cup Final is all tied up heading back to Detroit for game five. I got in SO MANY arguments since my last blog, so I'm going to try and not talk much about the officiating (which I actually thought was pretty decent this time around).

Here's the recap:

(Penguins 4, Red Wings 2)

The quick-strike offence is what got the Penguins past the Hurricanes in the Eastern Final, and on Thursday night they used it to get past the Red Wings - scoring three goals in under six minutes during the second period.

Jordan Staal turned the tide of this game with a shorthanded goal on a second consecutive Detroit power play; two minutes later Sidney Crosby put his side ahead and then Tyler Kennedy put the icing on the cake for the home team, getting on the end of a pretty nice tick-tac-toe play.

Just like that, it went from 2-1 Detroit to 4-2 for the Penguins.

The Wings had their chances, outshooting the Pens 39-31 by the end of the game, but it seems that (probably much to the delight of the NHL) it just wasn't meant to be.

It was disappointing not to see Pavel Datsyuk back in the lineup for this game, but after the pregame skate he decided he couldn't go. Hopefully they'll have him back before it's all over. It would truly be a shame if Detroit's best player (or at worst, their joint-best player) didn't play a single game in the Final.

Now, before I talk about the refs, hear this: I'm trying a Mike Babcock-like approach from here on out when it comes to the refs. He is of the mindset that the calls and the missed calls are part of the game and there's no real point in complaining TOO much.

I tried, anyways, to take that approach.

As for the reffing, I thought the inconsistency continued but it pretty much went both ways.

The one call that irked some Pens fans happened near the end of the game: a Detroit player hooked a Penguin that was in alone on the empty net...the ref called a hook.

The fans wanted a goal given, and they were probably right. But even there - it was either 5-2, or you've got the losing team down a man for the remainder of the game. That's what we call a win-win situation.

So, through four games the home team has not only won each game, but they've won each game by a two-goal margin. And here's another interesting stat: in each game so far, the losing team had the edge in shots.

Game five goes Saturday in Detroit.

Let Kerrzy read it to you here:

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Playoff recap, Day 42

The Pittsburgh Penguins avoided going down by three games by winning game three at Mellon Arena on Tuesday night. Thursday night will either tie things up, or put Detroit up 3-1...

Here's the recap:

(Penguins 4, Red Wings 2)

Sergei Gonchar scored the game-winner on a pretty questionable interference penalty against Detroit's Jonathan Ericsson, blasting a shot from the point that found it's way past Chris Osgood.

That broke open a tie game after a four-goal first period that saw Max Talbot score within the first five minutes, Henrik Zetterberg tie it about 1:30 minutes later, Johan Franzen put Detroit ahead and Kris Letang tie it less than five minutes after that.

Exciting stuff!

Detroit carried the pace in a scoreless second period, outshooting the Pens 14-4, but Pittsburgh had a 10-3 edge in the final twenty minutes and a lot more opportunities on goal.

The Wings were unlucky to go ahead in the second period, but luck is something they've had their fair share of so far in this series.

Evgeni Malkin had three assists for the Pens in their big game three win...good thing the NHL decided not to uphold the automatic one-game suspension he should have been given for his last-minute instigator penalty in game two.

Good thing the league is on his side!

I've been on the officials a lot in these playoffs, but PLEASE...just call a consistent game.

The game-winning power play came on a Jonathan Ericsson interference call; Pittsburgh dumped the puck into the zone, Ericsson used a bit of light stick-work to hold up his man, and the arm went up.

In his post-game press conference, Detroit coach Mike Babcock was asked about that call.

He said both teams were warned that the refs would be clamping down on interference when the puck is dumped into the zone - but he says he saw one Pittsburgh player do the same thing about four times before Ericsson wound up in the box.

So you've got games being decided by weak calls like that...yet, Darren Helm gets elbowed by Brooks Orpik at centre ice in the third period, no call.

A bit later, Helm delivers a clean hit on Tyler Kennedy along the boards and is then RUN OVER by Matt Cooke who comes from across the ice with his elbow call.

A headshot, with an elbow, where the player doesn't have the puck...and it's CBC's hit of the night. What a joke.

If Kronwall got five and a game for the hit on Marty Havlat, that is at LEAST a two minute minor.

Tomas Holmstrom stands in front of the net taking cross-check after cross-check, hack after hack all game long. No call there, EVER. Why? Who knows. I don't think Nick Lidstrom or Brad Stuart could get away with what Hal Gill gets away with on a nightly basis.

Good game by the Penguins, good game by the Wings, severely mediocre at best by the guys with the whistles.

It's a 2-1 series now with game four going on Thursday night.

Word out of Detroit is that Pavel Datsyuk could be ready for the next game after missing six with a foot injury.

Let Kerrzy read it to you here:

Monday, June 1, 2009

Kerrzy’s Notebook: Playoff recap, Day 41

An identical score in back to back games to start the Stanley Cup Final has the odds against the Penguins heading back to Pittsburgh.

Here’s the recap:

(Red Wings 3, Penguins 1)

Things are really starting to heat up between the Wings and the Penguins after two games!

Part of that, I think, is the frustration level of some of the Pittsburgh players after back-to-back losses where they out shot and, at times out played, their opponents.

Things really came to a boil in the final twenty seconds when Max Talbot sort of speared Chris Osgood after the whistle and Evgeni Malkin tried to fight Henrik Zetterberg.

Now, I’ve been fairly critical of the NHL in these playoffs, and here I go again: Evgeni Malkin was assessed an instigator penalty on the play, which is a one game suspension, pending a review of the incident.

Do you not think it looks bad for the league to (twice) look at an incident after the game and go back on what their officials called on the ice? If they’re going to do that, why not go over the game tape with a fine-toothed comb and call the penalties the refs missed?

Faced with the prospect of not having one of the Penguins superstars in the lineup for game three, NHL Executive VP and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell rescinded the Malkin suspension after the game.

Anyways, back to the game.

After all those bad bounces against them in game one, the Penguins got one in their favor on the power play late in the first period when Brad Stuart inadvertently batted a puck into his own net.

But the good luck wouldn’t last.

Pittsburgh hit post after post and were stymied by Detroit goalie Chris Osgood time and again for the rest of the game.

Once again, the Red Wings got big games from their role players in game two. After a high-pressure shift in the second period, during with the Penguins iced the puck, Jonathan Ericsson (who had his appendix removed last week) scored from the point on the ensuing face off.

Who else, but Darren Helm, was in front of the net screening Marc-Andre Fleury.

Then, in a scramble around the net on the tail end of a Detroit power play, Valtteri Filppula found mesh with a bad-angle backhand shot to give the Wings the lead.

At about the same point in the third period, with the score the same, youngster Justin Abdelkader then corralled a bouncing puck and hit the top corner with a perfectly placed shot that seemed to surprise Marc-Andre Fleury.

The Michigan-native now has two playoff goals before ever tallying in the regular season.

Game three goes Tuesday in Pittsburgh. It’s make or break for the Penguins, who will either come out of the game with some life, or they’ll be facing elimination. The stats aren’t on their side though.

Of the 32 teams that have gone down 2-0 to start a series, only the 1971 Montreal Canadiens have come back to win it.

Obviously that has no bearing on how things will go from here on out, but for the Penguins to win the Stanley Cup, they’ll now have to beat Detroit in four of the next five games.